My name is Jeremy Harrell and I’m the Founder of Veteran’s Club here in Kentucky. I have attended 3 retreats at Lone Survivor Foundation in Crystal Beach TX. There is an order in which the retreats happen for Veterans. Individual, Couples, and Families. I really think that structure is very effective and well thought out as it allows the Vets to work on themselves initially, then the Spouse, and ultimately the family.
I was in the Army and a Combat Veteran of Iraq. I served in Iraq during the initial invasion of 2003-2004. I was assigned to an Enemy Prisoner of War camp. I also participated in a lot of convoy operations while in Iraq. Being on the roads were the most dangerous places to be as IED’s were rampant and very hard to detect at that time. From transporting prisoners from the EPW Camp Bucca to Abu Ghraib Prison to apprehending escaped prisoners to just the day to day support of the Internment Facility were very stressful.
Now for the reasons I applied to go to LSF retreats and how it helped. I am diagnosed with PTSD and MTBI since 2008. As you may or may not know, this can be a very debilitating disorder. They are also known as the invisible wounds and aren’t on the surface. There are many struggles that come with PTSD and TBI. Unfortunately, they don’t heal in time on the same level as a physical injury but are sometimes accompanied by a physical injury. The constant hypervigilance, trouble sleeping, inability to trust, irritability, isolation, avoidance, were becoming too much for myself and my family to withstand. I have been active in treatment since 2008, but knew I needed more and to try different modalities outside of the VA. I knew there were other treatments out there that the VA didn’t offer, and I was desperate to try them. After all, the foundation of my family was at stake and I needed some relief so that I could lead them appropriately. I stumbled on to Lone Survivor Foundation through an online search. I reluctantly signed up as there is a lot of anxiety that comes with flying and going to a place to spend four days with people you’ve never met. However, we all know that at times we must do what we have to and not necessarily what we want to do.
I remember getting to the airport in Houston and awaiting our transportation to the actual Lone Survivor house on Crystal Beach. We were all naturally very nervous and quiet. We were probably contemplating on whether or not we should’ve come. The LSF staff were there soon to pick us up. I remember meeting Jennifer and Paula. They were very friendly and approachable right away. We loaded up in the vans and headed to the LSF house. I will say by the time we got to the beach house, most of us had already become friends and were more outgoing. The anxiety began to fall away. Once arriving at the LSF house, it was breathtakingly beautiful. You could see the ocean from the deck. It was a state -of the- art beach house with patriotic décor. Very nice amenities and very inviting. I was pleasantly surprised.
The next coming days we started the actual therapeutic part of the retreat with a modality called ART. We participated in a couple of sessions per day along with EAGALA Equine Assisted Therapy. I found the ART to be very effective and helpful as you could determine the ending of the traumatic event in an attempt to have closure. Horses are a passion of mine as Equine Therapy is what our organization is nationally known for. Spending time with the horses was a great bonus to the program. Another interesting portion of the treatment plan was Neurofeedback. It’s essentially a scan of your brain that can detect abnormalities due to TBI. It really shows you a play by play on how your brain is functioning in comparison to a database of others that share your same age, sex, and experiences. The staff that was facilitating all of these therapeutic modalities did so with the utmost professionalism and compassion. They all receive a 10 out of 10 from me. That alone makes everything a lot easier and tolerable.
One of the missing pieces in a lot of these sort of retreats for vets is the follow-up and the lack of resources after the retreat. I can say that LSF was not in this category. In fact, there were very good about sending us away with tons of resources and even some signed referrals to different facilities from the Clinicians. They would find us these same treatment options close to our homes. As with any treatment, to be effective you must be consistent with staying involved. They were able to give us those options. Kiki does an amazing job at following up after we get back home to ensure we are on the right path for success and to also inquire about any issues they may be able to address. It’s amazing that all of this is absolutely free of charge for the Veteran or Veteran and family. Thanks to amazing donors who generously give to this organization. Thank you!
On a personal note, since the retreat, I have started the veterans service organization I have mentioned above called Veteran’s Club. This retreat and the camaraderie experienced here inspired me to start my own organization here in Kentucky. It was obviously a need because it has and is growing exponentially. We’ve been able to help so many veterans in the short time we have been established. We do Equine Therapy, Warrior Yoga, Monthly Cookouts, Recreational activities, and Camaraderie and Coffee events. We have so much more coming this year! We have quickly become a highly sought after and premier organization in our state. I owe my ability to do this to several organizations and Lone Survivor is a big one! Without treatment, I would not be in a position to do what I do now which is, by the way, very healing for me to give back. Although I still struggle on a regular basis, I at least now know what to do to try and alleviate those setbacks. The tools I have learned from LSF are vital to not only the success of the organization, but also to my marriage and family. I owe LSF my gratitude and I do appreciate the opportunity to have gone there multiple times. I do understand that it’s a privilege to attend and don’t take that for granted.
To all the donors who give to this wonderful organization, I personally as a participant, want to say thank you, thank you, thank you! I understand the value of money and I know that those who give want to ensure it’s going to the right place. Let me tell you that your gift to LSF is being used to change lives, restore marriages, and making better Fathers as well as Mothers. I would like to challenge you to see this as an investment into a life of someone who was willing to give all and in some cases from a mental standpoint, have given all. Thank you once again.
Kentucky Veteran of the Year
Lone Survivor Foundation leads veterans & their families on a path to healing from combat trauma. Learn more at https://lonesurvivorfoundation.org/service-members/