Former Military Chef Hosts New Cooking Show, Out-Cooks Opponents on Food Network Show “Chopped”

By Jeff Johnson, AW2 Advocate

Sgt. Robbie Myers photo

AW2 Veteran Robbie Myers won first place on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network Show “Chopped.”

U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) Veteran Sgt. 1st Class Robbie Myers puts his  military culinary skills to work as host of the new cooking show “Come and Get It,” a new series created to pay tribute to the men and women who have and are serving in the military.

“This show will be a Veteran run  television show, from cameramen to set designers, everyone will be Veterans,” said Myers, an Adams Center, N.Y. native. “The show will highlight Veterans because there are many out there who got out of the military for extenuating circumstances, but became successful business owners and valuable members of the community.”

Myers served two combat tours in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2009, where he was subject to combat stressors and the loss of fellow Soldiers while fighting in the Korengal Valley. He sustained post traumatic stress disorder from his wartime experiences and has had a long road to recovery and a great deal of support from his wife, Jamie, and his Family.

His wife, Jamie, said she is happy to see her husband doing so well after making it through many stressful times together. Jaime works for the Cerebral Palsy Association and as a substitute teacher for students with special needs in a local school district.

“She’s my brain and has always been there for me through my recovery at every step,” Myers said about his wife. “She is very supportive, standing by my side through everything.”

Earlier this year, Myers competed against military chefs from other services on the Military Salute Edition of the Food Network show “Chopped.” During the competition, he made appetizers, entrees and desserts within a limited amount of time with ingredients unknown beforehand by the contestants.

“I had just medically retired, and a friend sent me a link to apply,” said Myers, who worked in the food industry before joining the military and during his military career. “I figured why not apply, and I was selected.”

“I went in humble and didn’t expect to win. It was three rounds, with four competitors,” he added. “I was kind of sick and couldn’t smell or taste anything, so I was happy as long as I didn’t get eliminated first.”

Despite his illness, Myers won the competition after competing one-on-one against a Navy chef in the final round when he  created a “deconstructed sundae using pomegranates, pilot bread crackers, fruit chewy candy and dried carrots.”.

As the winner, he received a prize of $10,000 dollars, a significant achievement reflecting his strong skill in the culinary arts.

As his advocate, I have loads of respect for his courage, perseverance and strength in working his recovery and overcoming many challenges on the road to recovery. Myers has been very active in his recovery and has put his culinary interests and the support of his Family to the forefront in moving on with life after the military. His strength and perseverance are evident in all he does for himself and his Family, and he is an inspiration for others that you can realize your dreams and move on in your recovery.

Tough Love and the Battle Back Home

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

AW2 Symposium delegate and spouse Crystal Ransom and her husband retired SPC Matthew Ransom with their two children.

It wasn’t until about 30 minutes into my conversation with AW2 Symposium delegate Crystal Ransom that something colorful caught my eye. I turned and noticed neon pink embroidery pop-up off her Army green camouflage purse. I gestured to the purse and asked her, “Does that say what, I think it does?” She grinned, plopped the purse in front of me, and proudly replied, “Yes. U.S. Army Retired Wife.”

Crystal reminded me of that kind of Southern woman who would scold you for not finishing dinner, serve you another helping, and walk out of the room with a smile. She’s a friendly soul, and follows a set of beliefs that are shaped by her life experiences. I realized that of all her challenges, living with her husband’s injuries has tested her the most as a woman, a mother, and an Army wife.

Retired SPC Matthew Ransom, Crystal’s husband, wasn’t injured by an explosion or a training exercise. Like so many of his fellow Soldiers, his injury was silent. It slowly penetrated his mind and body to manifest itself into a behavioral injury that took over his life and his Family’s. Nevertheless, Crystal was not a bystander in her marriage. She could tell the difference in her husband’s personality between his first and second deployment and was not going to let any injury continue harm him—or their Family.

“You have two choices. You either admit you have PTSD, admit you are an alcoholic, and seek help. Or I’ll leave you,” Crystal told Matthew a few years ago.

Her words struck me by surprise at first. In fact, I took a pause after she said it. But when she saw the expression on my face she explained, “Oh don’t you worry, I wasn’t going to divorce him. This is just the way we work. It got him to get the help he needed. And I can prove it. He’s two and a half years sober.”

In addition to Matthew’s post-traumatic stress disorder, he sustained degenerative disc disease (DDD) in his spine as a result of wearing heavy combat medic gear. Because the illness deteriorates the cartilage in his spine, Matthew decreased in height from six foot five to six foot two in a matter of years. To this day, he sleeps upright on his couch at home because laying on his back is too painful.

Nevertheless, Crystal faced her husband’s DDD just like she faced the other obstacles in her life. Head on.

Today, Crystal works hard to make sure that her children grow-up understanding how to accommodate their father’s injuries. From teaching them the consequences of waking “daddy” off the couch too early, to letting them know when he’s trying to get through an episode, Crystal prepares them now to avoid challenges later.

She lives and breathes her role as an Army wife. She married an active duty Soldier, and takes pride in the ability to help other Army wives adapt their marriage to military culture. “I’ve always been an Army wife. I don’t know what it’s like to be a civilian wife,” said Crystal.

Just yesterday, I witnessed her calm another spouse who was taking an emotional break from the AW2 Symposium focus groups. “You’ve got to be bigger than this. It’s about the greater goal. You’ve got to do this for all the other women out there,” Crystal said to the delegate. She proved to me once again how she motivates others to lead them to their own successes.

Crystal is a mover and a shaker. She understands the nuances of what drives people, and more importantly, what drives her Family. In that hallway yesterday, I saw determination in her eyes and saw her inspire another individual to affect change. And she did it all while letting the world know with four neon pink embroidered words who she is—a U.S. Army Retired Wife.

Speaking Out and Gaining Hope—A Guardsman Spouse’s Story

By Alan Morales, WTC Stratcom

AW2 spouse Danielle Barber and her husband AW2 Veteran Rob Barber at the 2011 AW2 Symposium.

Danielle Barber was sitting across the table from me at lunch when I first met her at the 2011 AW2 Symposium. She had a big smile on her face and an infectious laugh that spread around the table.

Little did I know that behind that upstate New York smile was a woman who fights daily for something she believes in—her marriage. Danielle is the spouse of an Army Guardsman and lives a life that is different than that of her fellow wounded warrior active duty wives. She didn’t have the benefit of living on post. She was not welcomed by a Family Readiness Group at her doorstep. All she had was the love for her husband to keep driving her forward. And to this day—it still does.

I learned from Danielle that her husband, Rob, sustained a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2006. As a gunner, Rob’s job kept him in the midst of battle, and his daily routine continuously exposed him to the rawness of war. Danielle doesn’t know exactly what happened to her husband downrange, but as she explained to me, “I don’t need to know. I need to let him deal with the reality of his own experience.” However, she was aware of one thing. War changed him into a different man.

Danielle described her relationship with Rob pre-deployment as a romantic one. She looked away from me as she attempted to envision their relationship years ago. “He used to call me cupcake and hold my hand when we walked down the street,” she explained, as she wiped a tear away from her cheek. Rob’s experiences had a lasting effect on him, one he tried to change, but was out of his control.

Danielle explained, “I could handle the lead up to the war, I could handle the war itself, but it was the life immediately after the war that I couldn’t handle.”

Through the years, the Barbers have gone to doctors, therapy sessions, and rehabilitation. All have helped to some degree, but it seems that communication was the catalyst for change. “He has a voice, and I can see that he’s happy. It’s changed him,” said Danielle about Rob’s Symposium experience.

I realized that Rob was looking for an opportunity to share his perspective, experiences, and opinions. The AW2 Symposium enabled him to do just that, not only for himself, but also for those that will follow after him. Although I didn’t hear what he said in the focus groups that day, one thing was sure. He was heard by his fellow wounded warriors.

That evening was date night at the AW2 Symposium, a time for delegate couples to spend time together and reconnect. “I’m nervous. Rob’s been talking so much more since we got here,” Danielle laughed. “We actually had a conversation last night! Who knows what will happen tonight.” I could sense the anxiety in her voice, but also a glimmer of excitement in her demeanor. She leaned in, gripped her hands together, and didn’t say a single word. She just smiled.

The next morning at breakfast, I caught Danielle and Rob before they headed to their focus group session. “So how was the date last night?” I pried. Danielle’s face beamed, and she described everything from the lobster dinner they shared to the walk they had after dinner.

More importantly, she leaned in, and this time told me the three words that explained it all, “We held hands.”

Danielle’s story demonstrated to me that love motivates her and her husband to keep working towards improving their lives as they live with Rob’s injuries. This week, the Barbers are around others like them who face similar situations. This opportunity gives them the ability to see what progress looks like and what their future could possibly look like in the years to come.

Although Danielle is well aware of the challenges that will come down the road, she walked out of breakfast that morning with something much greater than memories of her lobster dinner from the night before. She left with hope.


By Diana Hume, AW2 Reserve Spouse

Diana Hume analyzes boundaries in her life to ensure they are adjusted to help her live a better life.

Editor’s Note: Diana Hume is a feature blogger for AW2 and shares her experiences as the wife of a severely wounded reservist. The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Boundaries are an interesting topic, especially for wounded warrior Families. As we are well aware, many times war begins because of boundary disputes. Once on the battlefield, warriors do not see boundaries, they do what is necessary in order to survive and protect. However, once war is over and the dust settles, the wounds of war dramatically begin to change our once familiar boundaries.

The pain of war’s wounds so easily takes away the familiar which is not a huge news flash for those who live with them every day. In a blink of an eye, our boundaries begin to morph into something foreign right under our noses. Our world becomes smaller and everyday normal things change and often disappear. As each day begins in this new place, all that is in our thoughts is to get through it, just make it to the next day. The unknown about what life will be the next day is many times fueled by fear and over time, reality sets in and confirms that our new boundaries stopped the healing.

As I write this, I am learning what I need to do with my new foreign boundaries. First, I need to dig inside and hope I uncover anything that reminds me of the freedom without boundaries. What it was like before the pain became part of daily life—life before the wounds. I am realizing that mine were broad, open, and a guide to live, as opposed to what they were after the wounds—concrete road blocks.

I am learning the importance of understanding how I decide to redefine and re-open my boundaries. I am beginning to accept that this is necessary and is what I need to help me grow and heal. My priorities are to do all that is in my power to help my Family thrive. There are no excuses to stop living because the new boundaries slowly become comfortable or—to state bluntly—become a protective shell. Unfortunately, when I look in the mirror my shell is very visible, but I am beginning to believe that it will be broken with hope and trust.

We seem to think that boundaries define us. I disagree. I am learning that they can guide us, strengthen us and give us hope. Our boundaries can be molded like clay as we grow and become more of an expression of ourselves and not a blunt definition. Remember, it is o.k. to continuously re-evaluate or even erase some of your defined personal boundaries. I found that when you do, you are suddenly out of your comfort zone and you push yourself to improve and heal. It is an awakening when you accept that boundaries from war do not always protect, but hinder us from living.

It all goes back to choice. As a wounded warrior spouse it took me a lot of time to realize that I need to evaluate my boundaries every single day. Taking time for just me is good because it allows me to breathe. So, I encourage spouses and caregivers to take the time to write down what your boundaries are as you see them today. Think about what you just put on paper and how they were created. Are they closed, hard, or comfortable? Do you think they will protect you from hurting again? Were they created for you or by you? Do they allow you to live or just survive? Are any of them inclusive of a something you admire in yourself? If any of them keep you afraid to live and feel again, it is time to find the strength to soften them so you can breathe, feel, and take care of yourself. Remember, you are worth it!


AW2 Caregivers: Join Robin Carnes and Learn Stress Relief Techniques

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Robin Carnes is the founder of Warriors at Ease.

Editor’s Note: Warriors at Ease is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Who: AW2 caregivers and spouses
Caregivers support group to learn stress relief techniques
Thursday, June 30 at 1:00 p.m. EST
Where: Nationwide conference call
To give support, friendship, and new strategies to succeed

Join us this month and every month for Thank Goodness It’s Thursday (TGIT) Meditation Hour. This regularly scheduled event on the last Thursday of every month will help relieve stress and assist caregivers and spouses in finding new coping skills.

Robin Carnes, founder of AW2 Community Support Network member Warriors at Ease will lead iRest, an easy-to-learn meditation technique, during the teleconference call. Carnes teaches this technique at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and has great success. For example, after using these techniques, her students report sleeping more soundly, having less pain, and generally feeling a greater peace of mind in daily life.

If you are interested in participating, please email me at to request the phone number and access codes for the call.

TGIT!—Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour

By Patricia Sands, WTC Stratcom

Editor’s Note: Warriors at Ease is a participant in the AW2 Community Support Network.

Thank Goodness it’s Thursday Meditation Hour is launching for Army Wounded Warrior Program (AW2) spouses and caregivers.

This teleconference meditation hour is a regularly scheduled event that assists spouses and caregivers to relieve stress and to find new coping skills. The teleconference call is scheduled for the last Thursday of every month and will be first held tomorrow, Thursday, May 26, at 1:00 p.m. EDT.

Robin Carnes, founder of AW2 Community Support Network Member Warriors at Ease, will lead the meditation using iRest techniques. These easy-to-learn meditation techniques are taught by Carnes at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and have proven to be successful. For example, after using these techniques, her students report the ability to sleep more soundly, a decrease in pain, and a general increase in peace of mind in daily life.

If you are an AW2 spouse or caregiver who would benefit from stress reduction, please email the AW2 Community Support Network to reserve your spot for tomorrow’s call at


Giving a Voice to Post-Traumatic Stress on Capitol Hill

By Gina Hill, AW2 Spouse

Vice Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Peter Chiarelli and AW2 spouse Gina Hill speak to Capitol Hill on the behavioral health needs facing the military community

The last time I boarded a plane to Washington, DC, I was alone, scared, and on my way to see my husband who’d been medevaced out of his second deployment in Iraq. I was on my way to Walter Reed. All of that came flooding back yesterday as I made that trip again—it was my own unexpected emotional flashback. This time, however, I was returning with a greater understanding and a clear purpose: to take a stand on behalf of my husband, retired SSG Allen Hill, and the thousands of other Veterans and Army Families who struggle daily with PTSD. I was going to brief Capitol Hill at the Mental Illness Awareness Caucus.

As I looked at the panel, I was a bit overwhelmed. COL Gregory Gadson, AW2’s Director, spoke about his struggle with PTSD and TBI and how his Family got individual and Family counseling. SGM Robert Gallagher of AW2 spoke about his “wounds above the shoulders” and about his realization that there was no silver bullet to fix his brain injury—that he just had to learn and apply the tools that were provided and work in partnership with his medical providers. Army wife, Sherri Hall, told of the night she looked at her husband and said, “I might clean up your beer bottle in the front yard as you cope, but I’ll be dammed if I’m going to clean up your brains off the wall—I will not tell our kids you didn’t take advantage of the help that was available for PTSD” and how he now trains resiliency at Ft. Riley to help other Soldiers.

And then, next to me, sat the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army GEN Peter Chiarelli. I was excited and a bit surprised by his passion for and candor about PTS and TBI injuries. He pointed out that, “The science of the brain is not as advanced as the rest of the body and we need to learn as much about the brain as we do the rest of the mechanical issues.” He stated we needed a larger discussion in society about mental illness and we all need to take on the stigmas that surround it in a larger conversation, adding, “I believe it’s a national crisis.” He talked about new technology such as tele-behavioral health medicine and the TBI bio-marker and stated, “we’ve done a lot for PTS, but we’re not where we need to be.” He urged everyone to help with expanding the science of the brain and reducing the stigmas connected to those with mental illness. It meant a lot to me that he got it, I mean really got it.

I don’t share our story publically for sympathy. I share it because it’s my way to ensure people better understand that PTSD is real and to reduce the stigma associated with it. Many people fear what they do not understand. The more we know, the more we understand, the more we can help. Allen is a hard worker, a patriot, a Veteran, a father, a husband—and should not be defined or limited by his mental illness. My older son Makale bluntly put it in a blog this way, “Just because he is different now than before—he’s not crazy!”

Allen and I know that if we want things to change, we have to lead it. We hope that by sharing our personal struggles and accomplishments, we will shed some light on things that need fixed and share the blessings we have received that others may not know about. And more importantly, we can hopefully make things better for those that will follow.

As my 8 year old son said last summer at an Army event, “My dad fought in the war to save the world,” and to that I add, it’s our turn to fight for him and the thousands like him with various mental illnesses.

While the majority of his physical, or visible, wounds have healed, our Family still struggles daily with the psychological wounds. Often times, these are called the invisible wounds, but I have a hard time calling them that, for they are very visible to anyone who spends any amount of time with him.

These psychological wounds greatly affect not only the Soldier, but the entire Family. My husband’s triggers are now triggers for myself as well as our 2 children Dreyson who is 8 and Makale who is 14. In the rare times we are away from my husband, we are constantly on high alert for his triggers. It is next to impossible for us to turn that off.

The impact of my husband’s PTSD on our Family was immediate. When we left Walter Reed, Dreyson was 4 and in pre-school. We’d been home a couple of months and it was one of our first trips to the VA and Dreyson joined us. Allen, my husband and a retried Staff Sergeant, has problems in new locations and especially long hallways. A few steps into the VA, my 4 year-old son saw the physical changes in Allen, grabbed his hand, and began to lead him down the hallway saying, “don’t worry dad – he’s just a doctor, don’t worry dad – that’s just a door slamming.” I cannot hide my husband’s illness. I don’t have to explain it – my children live it every day. Since the age of 4 my son has been a caregiver to his father. In an AW2 blog, my son offered this advice to other kids of wounded Soldiers, “If your dad or mom has flashbacks, do not be afraid. It will be okay.”

My children are caregivers first, and kids second. They are well rehearsed in PTSD, calling 9-1-1, and explaining why their dad has a service dog, why he isn’t at many of their events, and why he sometimes acts really weird. They also have to understand that plans are NEVER set in stone and are always contingent on their dad’s current mental state. Even things they have their heart set on, sometimes doesn’t happen when they expect or want it to. Any friends they want to have over to our house also have to know the deal with their dad and that sometimes things quickly get very chaotic at our house. They never really know what to expect next and have to be very flexible with their needs and desires. These aren’t things most kids have to worry about.

When people thank my husband for his service, I just wish they’d stop and recognize the sacrifice of our children. They have given a lot. They served, and continue to, every day.

Although I used to teach full time, I now am a full-time caregiver for my husband. One of our biggest fears is that my Soldier will not be considered “injured” enough to qualify for the benefits of the newly passed “caregiver’s bill.” While my husband is physically capable of dressing, transferring, toileting, and bathing independently, he still requires supervision and reminders to perform these daily tasks. Without these reminders and assistance, most of these tasks are left undone. Due to the severity of his dissociations, my husband is unable to drive or to be left alone. Even within our own home there are many external, environmental triggers that can send him running to the middle of the street completely unresponsive to anything outside of his head, or ducked in a corner taking cover for hours. Many, many of these instances have ended with me having to call 9-1-1 for assistance, 15 times in a span of two years to be exact. Yet, he is not injured severely enough to qualify for much of the assistance available to the more physically injured warriors. We do not qualify for housing assistance that would allow us to move away from the rock quarry a mile from our house that blasts everyday and makes him think there are incoming mortars or the railroad tracks 100 meters from our house that cause a lot of loud noise and vibrations that he interprets as some type of danger. Recently, we got a contract on our house – and while I’m excited to find a new home that offers less triggers and turbulence for my Family, we are unsure where we’ll go. We simply put our faith in God and that He’ll provide. Currently, we also do not qualify for any type of respite care that would allow me to leave the house for errands or a job. All of these things we get denied for because they can’t see his wounds and this just fuels his PTSD and the depression and self harm feelings that go along with it.

Time and time again, we have come to realize that the whole system doesn’t know what to do with these guys. I’ve been told by someone in the system who is there to “help” that most Soldiers with PTSD like my husband’s just end up in jail, homeless, or dead. This is not an acceptable attitude.

Last summer, my husband attempted suicide. We went to the Kansas City VA, where he was admitted for a week. They directed us to the Topeka VA which has a PTSD program. Tricare would not cover this treatment because it’s the VA’s responsibility. As I was sorting out the paperwork, and how to get my husband into a local program, each day he struggled to hold it together saying, “I don’t think I can handle another day.” Each day, I feared for his life. He needed help. He wanted help. He sought help. But, he was denied help.

Finally, on my own, I found an inpatient treatment facility called The Pathway Home in California. We flew across the country in September to admit him. He’s been there now for 7 months, and recently graduated from the PTSD program but will remain there until we get settled into a new home. They are also still trying to figure out if he has been completely diagnosed and are searching for somewhere that can accurately diagnose everything that is going on with him. Three and a half years post injury, there are still many unknowns regarding my husband’s injuries.

Struggles I face specifically as a spouse of a warrior suffering with PTSD are many. It is difficult watching the person you love fighting to get back to the person they were before war because they do remember what they used to be like, they just can’t figure out how to get back to that person. We have worked very hard to focus on the best he can be now, not who he was. Every part of him is different and when I say every, I mean every. With that being said, it is extremely difficult being married to someone who is completely different than when you married him. There are times that I see glimpses of the man I married, but they are few and far between. I’m not sure whether these glimpses are a blessing or a curse!

Returning to DC this week has been amazing. My memories of fear and helplessness have been replaced with empowerment and advocacy. My uncertainty replaced with a purpose – to educate others about post-traumatic stress through an open dialogue. If you want to join me (and the Vice) in the conversation and affect change come chat at The Invisible Wounded Blog.

Support in the Form of Four Paws

By Christin Barden, AW2 Advocate and Air Force Veteran

AW2 Advocate and Air Force Veteran Christin Barden, pictured above with her husband Edward, intends to help manage her PTSD and TBI with the help of her dog Bravo and training from Paws and Stripes.

Last week I was introduced to my new best friend. He is a rescued, 12-month-old black lab I named Bravo. Like any good friend, he provides me physical and emotional support when needed, helps calm my anxieties, and unlike humans, never judges me.

Although I have had tremendous support from Family and friends when I found out I was receiving my dog, several people questioned why I need Bravo to help me face my injuries. People wanted to know how I could benefit from him.

The people closest to me understand, but others in our communities and even in the AW2 community may not realize the significant impact from a canine companion. This is when I realized that I had an opportunity to educate people about the invisible wounds of war and how dogs like Bravo, can play a part in healing.

I am a Veteran and an AW2 Advocate who has post-traumatic stress disorder, a traumatic brain injury, and mobility issues. Most people think I have it all together, however very few know about the level of pain, stress, anxiety, and sometimes depression that I live with every day since my military service.

Bravo helps me attain freedom that I have not experienced in a long time. Although we are bonding really well and already in love, we have a lot of work to do together and I am looking forward to our journey together.

Every week we will work with trainers and will face challenges that are far outside our comfort levels. The training will force both of us to confront our anxieties and in the end, this experience will teach us both to trust again. I guess it is like going through basic training again. Although I may get some barks at me, I won’t get any yelling. Stay posted for more information about my adventure in the coming months.

Editor’s note: The expressed comments and views of guest bloggers do not reflect the views of WTC or the United States Army.

Journaling as a Tool to Treat PTSD

By Tania Meireles, WTC Stratcom

Michael Cain volunteers his time at Fort Bragg teaching Soldiers and Veterans how to write journals to work through feelings, especially those struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

When Michael Cain’s son separated from the Army, he re-located to Fayetteville, NC, to help his son sell his house. He felt a need to stay there and support servicemembers in healing after war. Cain saw his friends come home from Vietnam as changed people and wanted to help those coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan with writing about their feelings—as a way to heal.

“With the large number of military personnel being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), treatment options are as important as they’ve ever been,” Cain said. “Many have difficulty communicating effectively with behavioral health professionals, which complicates the healing process. Journaling provides a vehicle which allows servicemembers and Veterans to begin to draw out their feelings and memories without the perceived risk of speaking about them.”

For two years, Cain has volunteered at the Fort Bragg Warrior Transition Battalion (WTB) and has worked with Soldiers who are struggling with PTSD. Even though the Army and Department of Defense are working to eliminate the stigma of seeking help for behavioral health issues, Soldiers may still feel reluctant to seek help. Cain believes journaling allows Soldiers, Veterans, and Families a way to address their thoughts. He meets with them one-on-one to help them get started.

“The basis of my work is to present journaling as a tool in the treatment of PTSD,” he said. “The workbook I’ve written to supplement this course includes definitions of PTSD and its symptoms, and a detailed discussion of how journaling can help to manage those symptoms. Throughout the workbook I’ve included writing assignments to help ease the Soldier into the writing process and to help them explore the causes of their pain. I know that some of the Soldiers I’ve worked with have experienced profound improvements in their well-being.”

For Fort Bragg Soldiers and Veterans interested in journaling, ask your squad leader or behavioral health provider about Cain’s course.

Project Odyssey–Revitalizing an AW2 Soldier’s Confidence

By SSG (Ret.) Leslie Wohlfeld, AW2 Veteran

While participating in Project Odyssey, activities like horseback riding helped SSG (Ret.) Leslie Wohlfeld positively deal with PTSD

My name is SSG (Ret.) Leslie Wohlfeld and I am an Army Wounded Warrior. I would like to share with you all my experiences with the Wounded Warrior Project’s (WWP) Project Odyssey this past summer. With encouragements from my AW2 Advocate, Laura Castillo and my doctor at Brooklyn VAMC, I took a leap of faith and decided I would go ahead and meet other female Veterans from OEF and OIF.

Since my return from deployment in Feb 2004, I spend most of my days and nights in a “silent world” recovering from the physical and emotional effects of war. This leaves me mentally and physically drained. I tried working several different jobs, only to quit. Prior to Project Odyssey I avoided public gatherings and large noisy crowds because I felt unsafe, anxious, and overwhelmed.

After resigning myself to no public engagement other than going to my VA medical appoints, I received a phone call from WWP asking me to join them at Project Odyssey.  I spent 5 days and 4 nights in the New York Windham Mountains. During the month of June 2010, I, along with 12 other female combat veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, had an extraordinary experience. The staff and volunteers from Adaptive Sports Foundation (ASF), WWP, and Vet Center, helped teach me different techniques in how to navigate my journey towards recovery from PTSD and my lower extremity injuries. 

Every day we were involved in different forms of physical activities during the morning followed by relaxation in the afternoon. The activities were numerous and diverse, each teaching me something new. For example, I learned how to properly ride a horse without falling off while taking picture–a feat if I do say so myself. Lucky for me, the horse knew the path.

Other activities included my first time in a kayak when I learned how to not tip over–saving myself from taking a dip in the lake. Thanks to my certified trainer we both stayed dry. Or, on another occasion, an ASF volunteer helped me get unstuck from a muddy hiking trail with a 3 wheel bicycle. I still remember hearing a battle buddy behind me, reassuring me to continue and not to turn back. She’d say, ”yes, you can do it.”  After our physical activities, we learned how to truly take deep breaths with some yoga and how to prepare our own healthy snacks.

During this experience, I never felt alone, there was always someone with me, a battle buddy, volunteer, or staff checking in to ensure that everything was okay.  Each day’s activities had an underlining theme–balancing one’s life. The energy I felt during this experience led towards a revitalization in my confidence.

Returning home, I realized it is okay to laugh, cry, relax, and trust others, knowing we are not alone in our individual battles during the healing process. I am very fortunate to have participated in this Odyssey. The bond and camaraderie I walked away with resembles a precious stone.  One cherishes it for a lifetime.

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