Most corpsmen count the number lost, not the number saved. My number is too high to list, though I have stars that say different. "If Only I'd. . ." still wakes me at night, though the shadows are quieter and going away since I've gotten a couple (not one, you can trust two maube, not one, so I have three) good dogs. 3/3 says there's something there -- usually a deer, but you can be ready and not surprised by family or company. Ever, and that's a good thing!
I would personally like to thank the Fallen Warriors Foundation for the incredibly emotional and healing effects I experienced at their annual retreat. I did two tours in Viet Nam, the last as a crewman on a Marine CH-46 helicopter in I Corps. I had carried the guilt and shame for 40 years and in a 4 day week-end an emotional log jam was broken and I had a new perspective. I regained some of my self respect and could understand better why I felt the way I did about myself. Claude AnShin Thomas, Jack Esteys, Colleen O'Callaghan and the 25 or so Vets and supporters changed my life and I can't thank them enough. The first thing I noticed when I entered the hall of meditation was a table filled with kleenex and note pads and I used a lot of both in my stay. For the first time in my life I broke down and bawled like a baby and then was encouraged to explore why I felt the way I did. It gave me new courage but not enough to return and finish what I need to do. I have never been through such an emotionally stressed experience in my life and it has scared me. I need to know that I can go back and face it again because it is the only healing I've known. I can't say enough about the Fallen Warriors Foundation and the work they do.
As the wife of a Viet Nam vet, I began to accompany my husband on the annual Fallen Warrior Foundation retreats in 1999 after he had hit the wall struggling to manage his PTSD. He had reached the point of feeling that there were few, if any, options left. After our first experience it became immediately apparent that what we learned was going to be highly beneficial to him, to our family, our marriage, and to me. I have attended 8 of the past 11 retreats. Three with my husband and five after his death several years ago. I return year after year because I, as a "veteran wife," feel the need to support and be supported by a wonderful group of caring and compassionate people. In an era when everything seems to be on double fast forward, it is remarkable how beneficial it is to receive instruction on how to slow down, shut up, sit quietly, breathe...how to create a different relationship with our thoughts and that which sends us spinning. My being a part of this particular veteran community is a privledge. I am honored by the legacy that my husband left to me.
I have been involved on the periphery of the Fallen Warriors Foundation as a documentarian, studying the impact of Post Traumatic Stress and the healing modalities currently employed to help relieve PTSD sufferers from their symptoms. The work that Jack, Colleen and Claude have undertaken through the Fallen Warriors Foundation and through their annual retreats is simultaneously inspiring and down-to-earth. This is a strong organization with dedication, honor, and a deeply humanitarian mission.
A few years ago I was invited to attend a Fallen Warriors Veterans' retreat by my friend, Colleen, who with her husband, Jack, conceived and organized the retreat every year on or close to Veterans' Day. I had heard over the years about the struggle of the advertising, mailings, contacts, finding a venue with lodging and kitchen, finding cooks to prepare healthy and satisfying food for the group over several days, hosting the retreat leader and his companion and assistant (which they both looked forward to), and generally making sure that attendees had a seamless and meaningful experience. They made sure no one who wanted to attend was denied for lack of funds, and would seek a benefactor or personally pay expenses if necessary. Their commitment to their vision of teaching life and coping skills, stress reduction and positive means of living with fear, guilt and pain induced by war is genuine and tireless. They could not have found a more skilled, insightful and appropriate teacher to lead the retreats. He is a Viet Nam vet who has become a Buddhist Monk. He shares the devastating effects of war but is well trained to teach the skills of living a meaningful life by accepting rather than repressing, rejecting or being shamed by painful war experiences through different forms of meditation, writing and sharing in an environment of silence and contemplation. He is articulate, sharp and compassionate, earning the respect and love of diverse groups no matter how extreme or complex the presented struggles of a particular group may be. Although I felt at first a little out of place, not being personally involved with the Viet Nam war, I soon learned that as a daughter of a WWII vet, PTSD had been a huge part of my growing up. As I learned the symptoms of the condition, I realized that my family had been living with them from day one. Many of my fathers behaviors, which I had so negatively judged, were most likely the effects of his combat experience for which we had no emotional context. That generation could not express pain or accept help, and most never knew their anxieties, restlessness and destructive behaviors were not just "who they were". I watched my father regularly explode, avoid intimacy and search for connection in all the wrong places. My association with Jack and Colleen, then Fallen Warriors, taught me that I could love my father without shame. That is a life changing event for which I will forever by thankful.
In the summer of 1997,Jack Estes gave me a call and asked me to go to Vietnam with the Fallen Warriors[Foundation] and Northwest Medical Teams[now Medical Teams International] on a medical mission.We spent two weeks in Danang and Tam Ky Provinces , with 2 days spent in Hue. From that extradorinary and multifaceted experience of witnessing former soldiers waging peace,came a renewed appreciation of the sacrifices of all Veterans and committment to honor those who have served. The Vietnam war was a searing experience for this country and left scars on the entire body politic of the USA. Attending a Fallen Warriors Retreat with veterans and their families under the guidance of a soldier turned Buddhist monk where quiet and solitude impel the sharing of often terrible memories is often the first step in healing.This Experience was cathartic and healing for me too. In 2000 I worked with the Fallen Warriors Foundation to help fund a project to bring clean water to the people of Nui Than.With the help of East Meets West Foundation a deep well , equipped with 1.5hp pump that pulls water into a 12 meter high concrete tower where the water is aerated,filtered and gravity fed to 500 homes was built.The villagers dug trenches,laid pipe,and back filled the trenches.Water meters were installed to reduce waste and charge the villagers a small fee for maintaining the system.A plaque commemorating the installation reads:Waters of Reconcilliation. This is just some of what Fallen Warriors has done to honor our Veterans and heal the wounds of war.
To whom it may concern, My name is Michael Sills and my father is a Vietnam veteran. I attended the Fallen Warriors retreat because I was having difficulty coming to terms with that relationship. Furthermore, it was an exceptionally difficult time in my life – in short, I had recently survived a bout with cancer, had become disabled and was stagnating. My time at the retreat was very personal and it is difficult for me to write about. However, the experience was, for lack of better words, spiritual: initially painful, then cleansing and, ultimately, healing. It was one of the defining moments in my life.
I was introduced to the Veterans Retreat organized by the Fallen Warriors Foundation by my counselor at the Tacoma, WA Vet Center (a prior attendee) in 2003. I have missed only one retreat since due to scheduling problems. The meditation practice lead by Claude-Anshin Thomas has made a major difference in my ability to function with my Vietnam combat induced PTSD. My wife has attended two retreats as well and it made a positive difference in our relationship. I have actively promoted the retreat among my acquaintences and last year intoduced it to two new Vet Center counselors, who plan to go back as well. Colleen and Jack have for years carried this project on their backs and are two of the most straightforward, emotionally honest, and compassionate people I have ever met.
I have attended the Fallen Wariors Retreat at least 5 or 6 times, starting in 1998, when I first was diagnosed with PTSD as a result of my year as a nurse in Viet Nam in 1970-71. Each and every time I have attended, the 4 days have been not only 'gut wrenching', and full of tears, but also very healing. I have to say that because of the Fallen Warriors Foundation sponsoring the retreats, I am still here today, a survivor, and at PEACE with my war experience
I have attended meditation retreats that were organized by Fallen Warriors Foundation. Not only have the retreats been very beneficial toward my own personal military experiences and their manifestation in my life today, my family and friends have benefited as well. Because Fallen Warriors have taken the risk of securing a retreat site without a financial commitment from the Veterans attending, I was able to benefit. I see how difficult it is to host the retreat when there are so many Veterans and their friends and families deciding to attend at the last minute. In addition, I received financial assistance for a partial scholarship to attend the retreat.