I am sitting at a sidewalk café in Kyiv, surrounded by the ancient ruins that are the apartment buildings lining Volodmyrska Street, one of my favorites in the world. There is the playful banter of young women at the table next to me, smoking, drinking Americanos with milk. I’m holding a moment, thinking about the conversation I had with Bob McDonald the previous night. There is a Harvard case study about the cultural transformation he catalyzed after inheriting a department dogged by scandal as the eighth Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2014. That impresses me, the fact there is a Harvard case study written about him. His reforms were the types of things he implemented at Procter & Gamble where he commanded the global giant as the Chairman, President, and CEO at the pinnacle of a 33-year career. This also impresses me. Bob is impressive to say the least. But what gets me the most, beyond what his mere presence brings to a country struggling for its own identity, is that he fits in so well with anyone lucky to share his time, no matter their background or status or age, whether it is the new Minister of Veterans Affairs in Ukraine, Iryna Friz, or John Boerstler, a former Marine NCO now nonprofit leader who organized the trip. He exudes something I picked up in Chicago at the Patrick Tillman Leadership Summit this year called “transformational humility.” It’s a leadership trait of some who inspire their teams and organizations through their own humility. Humility isn’t to be confused with meekness. Humility is what gives us the ability to see and treat others as equals, and leaders who practice humility can often transform the dynamic across their spheres of influence. How is this relevant in Ukraine? Well, as the U.S. continues to use its soft power to help our strategic partner rid itself of a Russian-backed insurgency on its border in the Donbas Oblast, we ought to keep in mind as Bob so aptly put it during our trip—“a stronger veteran makes a stronger country.” If I know as a soldier that when things go wrong on the frontline, that I will be medically treated and successfully reintegrated into society, then I am more apt to serve. And Ukraine needs good people who want to serve in its armed forces. From a geopolitical standpoint, I would rather the U.S. and Ukraine invest more in healthcare infrastructure for soldiers and veterans than build another missile silo, for example. When the Donbas finally frees itself from Russia, it could be that a strong economy and modernized Ukraine is what tips the scale in favor of freedom and human dignity. And is it possible from a global leadership perspective to exercise humility over military power to create the conditions in which peace and security can take root? Remember that a former U.S. Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs went to Ukraine because he loves veterans, and he insisted that you call him “Bob.”
P.S. A big thank you to Ben Butler whose generous support enabled me to travel to Ukraine for this mission. While I was there, I also conducted a four-hour mind-body skills workshop with Donbas veterans, spouses, clinical and non-clinical professionals, and researchers. The response was overwhelming and I’m working with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine and the veteran community in Ukraine to provide more training in the very near future!
This year, Bastion is primed to widen its reach and welcome new veterans to our community with a specialized day program, Headway. With support from Baptist Community Ministries and the NFL-Bob Woodruff Foundation partnership, Bastion and Spero Rehab have had the opportunity to partner to bring on a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and Certified Brain Injury Specialist to build and execute this program - and that person is me!
My name is Allison Tebbe, and I'm so excited to be a part of the Bastion and Spero Rehab families and to have the opportunity to bring this day program to fruition. I was born and raised here in New Orleans, and prior to joining the Bastion Community I've spent my professional life working in disability services - specifically work around brain injuries. I worked in vocational rehabilitation at a Maryland brain injury non-profit, then for Wounded Warrior Project's brain and spinal cord injury program before returning home to New Orleans in 2017. Until on-boarding with Bastion in October 2018, I administered a city-funded home modification program for low-income homeowners with disabilities at Advocacy Center of Louisiana. I believe deeply in creating an accessible and equitable community for all people, and recognize that people with disabilities have often gone under-supported and under-accommodated. I hope in our work here at Bastion, with Spero Rehab, Headway will be an accessible place for veterans dealing with substantial injuries and disabilities to build community, develop new skills, and connect with themselves and each other.
Opening in April 2019, Headway is a two day per week day program focused on community integration and skill building for veterans who served on or after September 11, 2001 and are living with a brain injury, spinal cord injury, or other neurological condition. From 10 AM - 3 PM each Tuesday and Thursday, warriors will engage in creative expression, vocational skill building, wellness activities, community outings, and more. Headway will also provide opportunities for family support members to connect and enjoy respite events. By participating in Headway, the entire veteran family unit will have new community supports to help them grow closer, happier, and healthier together.
With thanks to the generosity of Baptist Community Ministries and the NFL-Bob Woodruff Foundation partnership, Headway is free of cost to participants.
To be contacted by Headway staff for more information or to register via contact form click the button below.
Warrior Writers is coming to New Orleans to help create community through writing. At Warrior Writers, our mission is to create a culture that articulates veterans’ experiences, builds a collaborative community for artistic expression, and bears witness to war and the full range of military experiences. The Warrior Writers' community is made up of military veterans, service members, artists, allies, and healers dedicated to creativity and wellness. We use writing, painting, photography, and a host of other mediums to reflect on our experiences and express them creatively. Warrior Writers is a national non-profit organization, based in Philadelphia, with members and activities across the country. We are a veteran-focused arts organization that fosters artistic exploration and expression through casual, welcoming workshops and retreats. By reflecting and creating in a comfortable space, we encourage and support community building and connection.
Writing is a versatile tool to assist veterans (and anyone actually) in many ways including recording personal history, reflecting on experiences, sharing stories and catharsis. While we do not believe in defining the experience for you, many find it to be healing and empowering. There is a great deal of research about the positive effects that writing can have on people’s physical and mental health. James Pennebaker, a professor of psychology at The University of Texas–Austin, says, “This can help people sleep better, feel and think better, and have richer social lives, all of which can bolster immune function and improve health.” In military culture, which does not encourage self-expression, service-members are spoken for and told to keep their opinions to themselves. At Warrior Writers, we encourage folks to speak for themselves about their perspectives and experiences. The act of speaking openly and honestly empowers veterans to trust their voice and gain confidence in their ability to articulate their stories and needs. In addition, discovering writing and creativity can provide a new interest, passion, or identity as an artist for some veterans.
It is no secret that mental health issues are prevalent among veterans. At Warrior Writers, we encourage folks to try a range of approaches including holistic and alternative modalities such as acupuncture, meditation, yoga, massage therapy, etc. Obviously, we also believe in the power of writing to support positive mental health. In a 2014 study involving women in a residential treatment program, researchers from the VA Connecticut Healthcare System found that those who engaged in four 20-minute writing sessions (about emotional topics) on consecutive days had greater reductions in the severity of their post-traumatic symptoms, depression and anxiety after two weeks than participants who wrote about neutral topics. Writing is also a way to engage both your left and right brain, to make them work together utilizing the corpus callosum. “Writing accesses the left hemisphere of the brain, which is analytical and rational,” notes Maud Purcell, a psychotherapist and journaling expert. “While your left brain is occupied, your right brain is free to do what it does best, i.e. create, intuit, and feel. In this way, writing removes mental blocks and allows us to use more of our brainpower to better understand ourselves and the world around us.”
The creative works made at Warrior Writers events are shared with the public in the form of books, performances and art exhibitions, empowering veterans to share experiences openly and artistically, and providing opportunities for the broader public to understand veterans’ experiences. Veterans have a new avenue for communication with loved ones and the wider community. Through community gatherings, Warrior Writers creates a network of support and reprieve where artistic growth is developed and lasting friendships are built. Using language as art, we help bridge the gap between veterans and civilians. We truly hope you will join us at our first Veterans and Community Retreat in New Orleans, September 28-30.
For more info, click here:
Please register here
If you are from New Orleans, you know we have 4 seasons: Football Season, Carnival Season, Festival Season, and Hurricane Season. As we approach the height of hurricane season it is important to make sure your family is ready! This blog provides 5 tips to help you get prepared!
1. Make a Plan
When it comes to bad weather planning is key! Be sure to make an evacuation plan with your family. You can start by researching evacuation routes, pack an emergency kit, and make special arrangements for vulnerable populations such as disabled persons, infants, or the elderly.
2. Stay in the Know!
Keep an eye on local and national news to stay informed on storm track updates, school and city closures, as well as local shelter and traveling information.
3. Stock Up
Be sure your home is equip with batteries, flashlights, non-perishable food items, a first aid kit, and bottled water at the least. These materials will be essential in the instance of unexpected power loss.
4. Secure your property
In the rush of preparing for severe weather, it's easy to forget to properly secure important documents and property. In the case of an emergency, be sure to lock up your important documents in in a fireproof, watertight container, or take them with you. In addition, try to photograph or scan important documents like driver’s licenses, social security cards, passports, prescriptions, tax statements and other legal papers for safekeeping on a secure and preferably encrypted device.
5. Don't Wait, Evacuate!
Lastly, do not wait to evacuate if your area's officials issues a mandatory evacuation order. If you think you may need assistance evacuating, please visit http://evacuteer.org/ or nola.ready.gov for city-assisted evacuation information.
For more helpful information on severe weather and local resources, please visit the following links:
At Bastion, service is an integral part of everyday life. Many of our residents have served our country in times of war, and now continue that dedication by giving service to one another in the community. This summer, we look forward to increasing our culture of care and service as we welcome new families to the neighborhood. In an effort to create a better quality of life for these families, Bastion has started a volunteer and donation program where members of our community can donate their time, money, and/or goods to Bastion families.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT.
Many of our families are in need of beds, sofas, mattresses, dining tables, chairs, non-perishable food items, toiletries, clothes, and more. If you are interested in becoming a part of our community of support, please visit our volunteer page, fill out the short form, and indicate that you would like to be contacted when Bastion families are in need. A member of our staff will reach out to you with a list donation items and actions needed at the time. Your assistance can range from donating new and/gently used items that you have, recruiting others to donate new and/gently used items, or even helping to transport large furniture items. We also welcome monetary donations through our donation page to help purchase the materials our residents need to make their new house a home. It is only with your support that we are able to continue the mission and help our warrior families thrive!
This year, I spent Father’s Day at my in-laws house with my wife and three girls. I don’t have a relationship with my dad, so it was kind of cool being able to see my wife and her brother getting to spend time with my father-in-law and celebrating the day together. Before going over there, I got a really sweet card from my wife, one from the kids and a painting that they made together, which made me feel honored and loved as a father. For a lot of people, Father’s Day is a day to appreciate and spend time with our fathers. For me, it’s also a day to reflect on everything I get out of being a father. I’ve been called a lot of things in my life (mostly, but not all, good), and I’ve had a lot of roles/titles from Marine to Social Worker. But nothing compares to being a dad.
Being a father is a tremendous responsibility not to be taken lightly. There is a lot of child development research out there and it is clear that a child’s relationship with her parents shapes and informs all of the other relationships throughout her life, including the way that she will eventually relate to her own kids, meaning there can be generations of consequences. That’s a lot of pressure! Fortunately, kids are very resilient and if you are a little bit self aware and have genuine love for your child, you can’t really go wrong. Take something as seemingly simple as sleep training. There are very different schools of thought on this. When they are little do you let them cry it out? Take them out of the crib to hold or rock them? Bring them in bed with you? Our youngest daughter is three years old. She is our third child, and I’m pretty sure we’ve done the sleep thing at least three different ways. But our kids seem pretty well adjusted – at least so far. You can relieve some of that pressure by realizing that there are no perfect parents, so every parent will inevitably do something that your child will talk about later in therapy.
Taking on the responsibilities of being a father can add a layer of meaning and purpose to your life. I definitely would not recommend someone becoming a parent solely because they are looking for a purpose, but once someone has decided to become a parent, purpose and meaning is a benefit that comes with the territory. Like many veterans, I struggled with my transition out of the military, but knowing I had a child to continue to care for kept me grounded and gave me a reason to keep moving while I figured out where I was going and what I was going to do. I can easily imagine my transition going a lot differently – and not in a good way – if I didn’t have that concrete responsibility to feed, shelter, care for and love my daughter.
My favorite thing about being a dad is the unadulterated joy. Last week our three daughters had their annual dance revue. This is always a crazy night of running back and forth from our seats to backstage to help with costume changes, etc. for my wife, but it is always a night filled with joy. Around 11pm, we were sitting on the floor of our living room – our floors having just been redone and our kitchen table still acting as storage space – with my wife and three daughters eating fast food, laughing and talking about how all the dances went and how I got something in my eye – causing it to water (ok, I cried) - during my second daughter, Addison’s performance as Abu in the ballet production of Aladdin. If someone would have told me 10 years ago that I would become a “dance dad” who enjoys going to dance competitions and looks forward to the yearly recital – and cries during my kids’ performances, there is no way I would have believed it. Part of being a good dad is supporting the things that your kids are interested in. Part of living a good life, is learning to enjoy whatever life has in store for you. Like a lot of men, especially young men who don’t know anything, I wanted a son and could imagine taking him to wrestling practice and watching him in tournaments. Life and biology saw fit to give me three beautiful girls who all love to dance (and somehow have the energy to do it 24/7), so here I am enjoying watching them work hard and perform to the best of their abilities on stage.
I have accomplished a few things so far in my life that I am proud of from becoming and serving my country as a Marine to finishing college and graduate school to become a licensed social worker. And hopefully, I have many years and many accomplishments left in front of me. There is nothing I’m more proud of and grateful for than being a dad.
Jeremy Brewer is Bastion's Programs Director and holds a Masters of Social Work with a certificate in Disaster Mental Health and Trauma Studies from Tulane University. He is a Marine Corps infantry veteran with two tours to Iraq. His recent roles include Veterans Program Coordinater at SBP, Program Manager at VetLaunch, and, most recently, as Wounded Warrior Project’s first Outreach Coordinator in New Orleans where he covered Louisiana and Mississippi. Jeremy is also an alumni of The Mission Continues Fellowship Program and a past commander of New Orleans last active VFW. He lives with his wife, Melissa, and their three beautiful daughters.
“To be a soldier is to dig,” so remarked the Ukrainian commander, only 22-years-old, while we observed the men of his first assault company hard at work with shovels on the front line near Russia this month. It is true, Ukrainian forces are trenching all along the front. Standing there one can hear not only the rhythmic sound of shovel to dirt, then foot to shovel, and finally dirt re-deposited, but also the close range firing of small arms (what turned out to be marksmanship training). The smell of residual gunpowder from an exploded mortar just five days prior still emanated from its crater a few feet from the main bunker. We visited two other positions that afternoon, passing armored trucks and skirting mines that crisscrossed the landscape and tiny villages that civilians still call home.
This world felt familiar to me. I felt connected to the fighters we met that day on a level I cannot fully explain. Also, perhaps ironically, I was quite possibly my most peaceful self and at one with the universe while I was out there. I gained new insight while I was there, and here it is in two parts: 1) those who fight wars are connected by a shared experience that transcends boundaries of nation or conflict and 2) war, recovery, and growth are all processes of world making that can be as messy as conflict itself.
I traveled to Ukraine at the request of my good friend John Boerstler. John is not only assisting veterans in Ukraine develop a hub for military transition services like his very own Combined Arms project in Houston, he is advising elected leaders in the creation of a Ministry of Veteran Affairs. Through his leadership a consortium of experts representing seven countries convened in the capital city of Kyiv at a location just seconds away from Maidan Square, ground zero for the recent revolution. The experience was most impactful, bravo John!
While my mission in Ukraine was to share the lessons we are learning at Bastion regarding transition stress and post traumatic growth, I arrived a few days early to accompany my West Point classmate, Jenn Blatty, to the Donbas region where the armed conflict continues between Ukraine and Pro-Russian Separatists. Jenn is a photojournalist and working on a project to reveal the universality of soldiers in wars across the globe, an ambitious undertaking to say the least but she is the perfect woman for the job. That is how I found myself standing in a fighting position on the front line near Donetsk with one of the last remaining volunteer battalions from the Right Sector movement. It was there that I recognized myself in the eyes of other warfighters, and realized a commonality that extends beyond borders.
Through the work that Jenn and John are doing I also realized unmistakably how war transforms the way we experience the world. The practice of war for the individual soldier is perhaps the most extreme example of world making. World making is a term I first encountered in Zoe Wool’s book, After War, which chronicles the recovery of severely injured warriors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center from 2007-2008. In this blog, I will adapt the definition of world making to capture the personal nature of transformation occurring in the moment. From the soldier’s plight, it is the process of shaping and molding the contours of a land and its people to achieve some desired effect. I was deployed to Iraq as an Infantry officer from 2003-2004 where I participated in the destruction of Ba’ath Party loyalists as well as the rebuilding of Mosul. The world I was making included the first democratic elections in 40 years. As in Ukraine, this effort exacted many casualties. Iraq also transformed me in ways I’m still learning about, as my Ukraine experience illustrates.
In 2005 I thrust my body into the process of world making once again, this time in New Orleans during the aftermath and recovery of Hurricane Katrina. I repeated the process yet again in 2012 when the Bob Woodruff Foundation and Wounded Warrior Project gave me the seed funding to build a Bastion for returning warriors and families. The act of world making itself is exceedingly physical and I have come to understand the physical repercussions of trauma, as well as traumatic growth, because these lessons are recorded in my body. In many ways my mind and spirit have been trying to catch up after each repetitious cycle of pushing my body to a new breaking point. The infantryman inside me will not relent because his survival depends on movement. If he stops, death feels imminent. Of course, this is no longer true off the battlefield. I need him to slow down for the sake of my body, which he will use up completely if unchecked.
The hard lesson that every soldier learns eventually is that while they may give their bodies without reservation to make a world that is safer or more free (which I admit sounds altruistic but soldiers in Ukraine are very much fighting for freedom) they will need their mind and spirit to inhabit it once again. Restoring this connection is vital. I am still learning how to live in my body which helps me understand and inhabit a world that in varying degrees exists beyond my ability to shape and mold it, and many of the veterans I met in Ukraine are beginning the same journey. Similar to the U.S. during the post 9/11 era, young veterans in Ukraine are returning from the front to discover a society that is moving forward with or without them. While I was there, it was reported in the national media that one veteran every day is taking his or her own life in Ukraine. The clash between worlds can be fatal. In one reality the homeland is safer because of the veteran’s individual contribution. In a competing reality the veteran is not safe in the homeland.
Bastion was conceived because I rejected a reality where returning warriors lived in isolation, or under a bridge, or in a facility on the outskirts of society. There is a competing reality in which society still needs us. Bastion is world making, as are many other examples of local initiatives throughout our country where warriors are carving out their place and remaking themselves and yes, always, persistently and imperfectly, remaking the world around them. “Defending the Bastion” means holding the space for warriors and families to heal and continue the tough work of making their world inhabitable, which if you are lucky, may someday be the same world in which you live or at least one that partially overlaps. We can do the work more optimally together because we will always need each other, including our civilian counterparts, to truly belong and reconcile competing realities. The connection we made so long ago as soldiers extends across time and conflicts, beyond physical borders, and into the realm of what is possible when we dare to imagine a world with us still in it.
Our guest blogger is Dylan Tête, the executive director and founder of Bastion Community of Resilience, who recently sojourned to the Ukraine.
Growing up as a kid in the 1980’s, I idolized Sally Ride, the first American woman to fly in space. Her trailblazing story appeared in school text books, a poster of her, life-sized in a flight suit, hung in the hallways next to rows of lockers. I wanted to be an astronaut and just as cool as her in a flight suit. She was such a popular role model for my generation of young women, possessing the confidence in herself and her skills to be successful at any endeavor she took on. She never set out to be a pioneer, she was just being herself and striving for what she wanted.
I think the same could be said for the two military veteran role models in my life. My Grandpa was a Marine who served in the South Pacific theatre of World War II and my Uncle was a career officer in the Coast Guard. When I raised my hand to take the Oath of Office and join the Coast Guard, I never considered myself a “woman joining the military”. I simply wanted to serve my country like my Grandpa and Uncle did. More than anything, I wanted to be a part of the country’s oldest seagoing service, one whose primary mission is search and rescue and saving lives.
The women leaders that I admire now in my adulthood, are those lesser known Coast Guard leaders who weren’t necessarily focused on being “the first” of anything, but just doing their job with excellence and honor. Women like Ida Lewis, once referred to as the “Bravest Woman in America”, who in the 1850’s became the first woman lighthouse keeper in one of the Coast Guard’s predecessor agencies. She was an excellent boat handler, credited with saving at least 18 lives, her first rescue occurring when she was just 16 years old. Responding to her critics, asking if it was un-ladylike for women to row rescue boats, Lewis responded, “No one, but a donkey, would consider it ‘un-feminine’, to save lives”.
I think about women who felt the desire to do their part as the entire world went to war. Genevieve and Lucille Baker, twin sisters who at 19 years of age, were the first women to serve as uniformed military in the Coast Guard in World War I. I admire the Coast Guard SPARs, the World War II female corps, similar to the Navy WAVE’s and Army WACs, who served as parachute riggers and equipment drivers. One of those SPARs, Florence Finch, who just passed away last year at the age of 101, was a saboteur with the underground resistance movement in her native Philippines. She smuggled food, medicine, soap and clothing to U.S POW’s, until she herself was caught and became a POW along with them. Tortured and interrogated she never gave up information to her captors and was held for three years until released in 1945.
In 1979, two years after women were assigned to sea duty aboard Coast Guard cutters, Beverly Kelley became Captain of a 95-foot Cutter, the CAPE NEWAGEN, becoming the first woman to command a U.S. military ship.
Vivien Crea, is the most recent example of a Coastie woman accomplishing great things. One of the first women aviators in the Coast Guard, she was the first member from the Coast Guard, and first woman in any service, to serve as Presidential Military Aide, carrying the nuclear “football” for President Ronald Reagan for three years. She was the first woman to attain the rank of Admiral for the Coast Guard, ultimately being appointed the first woman Vice Commandant in 2006, the second highest position in the entire Coast Guard. This distinction also made her the first woman to serve as a deputy service chief in any of the Armed Forces. I had the honor of working with and getting to know her towards the end of her career, when I was Aide for one of her Admiral peers.
These women may be well-known, either worldwide or within a smaller sphere of influence, but their reasons for serving their country were about a sense of duty as an American and having a shot at doing something they desired. While it may not have been their intention, I’m glad they became influencers who paved the way for women like me follow in their footsteps. Their courage and bravery to say “I want to do this” is what resonates with me. That’s what being a veteran means to me. All veterans joined the military for many reasons, but being famous wasn’t one of them. All of us did it because we felt a higher calling, and to do our duty the best we could alongside our shipmates.
The late Sally Ride once said, “I would like to be remembered as someone who was not afraid to do what she wanted to do, and as someone who took risks along the way in order to achieve her goals.” This a message I want to instill in my children, son or daughter. I sure hope that’s how I am remembered as a veteran, as a woman, as a person.
Sarah Holzhalb works for Team Red, White and Blue, a veteran service organization that enriches the lives of veterans through physical, social and volunteer activities A born and raised Virginian she served five years as a commissioned officer in the Coast Guard. She lives in Covington with her husband and children, where they are active with various veteran and community organizations, enjoy running and any outdoor activities together.
Exciting. Romantic. Frustrating. Annoying. Proud. Struggle. Patriotic. A roller-coaster ride.
There are about 20.4 million U.S. veterans, and each of them has been impacted by their time in service. Talk to a handful and you’ll hear many similar stories and feelings, but each one also has been touched personally by their time in the military. Some emerge stronger, more resilient and proud, but at the same time they may be wounded (mentally or physically) and have hidden battles within, which can impact their relationships with others.
My husband and I were both in the Army National Guard. Then in 2008, following our first deployment to Iraq and struggling to find a good paying civilian job during the height of the recession, he chose to switch to active duty Army. I was excited because I’ve always loved an adventure, but it was a struggle at first and still can be at times. Over the past ten years of marriage my husband has deployed two more times to Iraq and once to Afghanistan. We’ve moved six times. I completed my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I served in the Guard for five more years. We had an amazing little girl who is now 6 years old! Needless to say we’ve made some wonderful memories and endured some very difficult trials together.
Through my own experience I have learned that being in a relationship with a veteran has its ups and downs. So many factors come in to play such as; if you were with your veteran during his/her time in service or if you met him/her after, the severity of any injuries incurred, what the veteran experienced during their time in, and the list goes on. All of this also affects your level of understanding what they’ve been through. No two experiences are exactly the same, so I cannot pretend to act like my situation or my view of things will be the same as yours. However, every marriage has its mountains and its valleys, regardless of you or your partner’s career or background. With Valentine’s day upon us, I would like to share with you a few things I have learned.
Don’t underestimate the importance of weekly/monthly date night, especially if you have kids! Staying connected is incredibly important. Try doing things you don’t usually do together, like going to the shooting range, exploring antique stores, strolling through the park, or making a dessert together at home and playing cards. You may discover new things about yourselves and strengthen your connection.
You may not be able to change your partner, but you can change the way you respond. My husband looks at things in a very systematic way. When he was struggling with depression he wanted to know; what the next step was, when exactly could he expect the medication to start working, why did it feel like the treatment was not working fast enough, etc. At other times he can be very calm, cool, and collected. Whereas, I tend to get more emotional about things. Empathizing with him and reflecting on his thoughts and feelings helps me to respond to him appropriately. It also helps me calm my frustrations when my way of thinking doesn’t line up with his. Sometimes all it takes is a calm response to a situation to completely change the poor direction it was heading.
Nothing can replace the camaraderie that was shared with fellow service members. We recently had a 10-year reunion with a bunch of guys and gals who served in the National Guard during our first deployment to Iraq. We spent all weekend telling stories and joking about our time together and catching up on where everyone is now. It was a blast! There are things from my time in service that I would like to forget, but there are many more good memories that I want to remember forever. The bond that is forged during intense times when you’re all “in the suck” together, cannot be replicated. This is an aspect of a veteran’s life that could be difficult for civilian spouses and family members to grasp. It is essential to understand this aspect of the veteran experience and know that your relationship is important too.
The grass IS NOT greener on the other side. Sometimes it may be tempting to think so, but that grass on the other side is fake, plastic, painted, and won’t last. It may be tempting to think that things may be easier if ___________ (fill in the blank). That is not reality. Marriage takes effort, a lot of effort. Try putting all your effort and energy into fertilizing, watering and caring for the grass you have. Start by taking steps in the right direction and look for the good in your relationship.
Communication is key. Change is inevitable. Be supportive. Seek support. So oftentimes in relationships we make assumptions, but that tends to work against us. Ask questions. Listen to your veteran. Share your thoughts, dreams, hopes, and fears with them. Talk about your future. Talk about your needs. Be open to changes that life throws at you. You are not the exact same as you were when you were a teenager, nor will you be the same when you are 60 that you are at 35. Same goes for your partner, times changes us all. Adapt to changes in your life together. Lean on each other.
I acknowledge that there are couples and families that are encountering or have been through much more challenging circumstances. Illness, injury, side effects from medication, and mental health struggles are all things that can complicate our relationships. Good medical care and solid social supports are critical in these situations. It is important to remember that all relationships are a work in progress, and no one is perfect. No relationship is perfect. Be kind to yourself and enjoy your journey. “A great relationship is not when the ‘perfect couple’ comes together. It is when an imperfect couple learns to enjoy their differences.”
This blog entry was written by Sheri Beck, Bastion's Director of Organizational Development.
2018 is finally here, and at Bastion we are back to work creating a bigger, better, and healthier community! For those of you who haven't noticed, our hard hats are back on! Bastion has began construction on 20 additional units, and we look forward to welcoming our new families this summer!
A new year means a new look! The Wellness Center is getting a makeover soon, with the help of an interior designer who will help us integrate a welcoming spirit of wellness into our community! This year you can also look forward to more yoga classes, mind body skills groups, and fitness programming! So be on the look out for announcements in the newly dedicated Purple Heart Room sponsored by Red River in the Wellness Center!
Until then you can mark your calendars for the following events:
January 13, 2018 Volunteer Opportunity with the Mission Continues
(more info here)
February 1, 2018 The New Orleans Veterans Transition Workshop
(more info here)
March 31, 2018 Crescent City Classic 2018
(more info here)
May 12, 2018 Four Play- Quads Volleyball Tournament
more info to come
Weekly events (more coming soon!)
Resident Social - (Each Tuesday @6:00pm)
Yoga with Jason Davey- Every Friday @ 5:30pm (moved from Thursdays at 6:00)
Come see the transformation for yourself!