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.
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.
I have observed first-hand the strong commitment that the Fallen Warriors Foundation has toward helping our Veterans and their loved ones over many years. The work that they do has helped many people deal with the trauma that war can cause to an individual, as well as the family, upon returning home. They provide a great service to both our Veterans, and our country.