Rebuilding Warriors: Tools that Heal our Heroes
When you think of the tools used in the electric, oil and gas construction industry that are necessary to build pipelines, erect transmission lines or repair utility poles, what comes to mind?
How about a knowledgeable foreman, truckloads of pipes, and some steel transmission structures?
Absolutely! These items are essential for erecting and rebuilding strong structures that have broken down over time and have been stressed beyond repair from the elements.
Now take that concept of necessary “tools of the trade” and apply it to rebuilding a soldier returning to civilian life. What tools does it take to rebuild a person that has been wounded, traumatized, or otherwise internally or externally broken while actively serving in our nation’s armed forces?
In the US there are over 700,000 combat veterans. These brave warriors have stared down enemy fire and put their lives on the line for our country. Coming home after being in a war zone is easier said than done. Government agencies such as the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense offer some resources to our returning soldiers, but it’s not enough.
Many veterans don’t get the proper physical, mental and emotional support they need after they return from a tour of duty. Sadly, relying on destructive coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drugs has increased the veteran suicide rate dramatically in the years following September 11, 2001. In fact, according to new data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, in 2016, roughly 20 veterans commit suicide per day – and these numbers are far too high.
Learning to Survive and Thrive
With firsthand experience in sustaining and overcoming injuries while on active duty, Elijah Sacra, a US Marine Corps Veteran, has dedicated his civilian career to becoming an Exercise Physiologist & Functional Medicine Health Coach. In 2009, he founded Warrior Wellness Solutions (WWS) in an effort to fill the gaps missing from the services that are currently available to veterans.
Through WWS, Elijah and his team collaborate with physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and mental health practitioners to deliver services to our nation’s military veterans so they can regain their independence and dignity after enduring the visible and invisible wounds of war. These individuals come home with missing limbs, lost eyesight, burns, injuries that produce chronic pain and limited function, malnutrition, and Post-Traumatic Stress.
Tools of the Wellness Trade
As is in the utility construction industry, there are certain “tools of the wellness trade” that are necessary to rebuild and strengthen human lives.
To start the intake process, participant’s first meet with a WWS team member face-to-face, either on or off site. This intimate approach enables the participant to confide their struggles related to the trauma and injuries sustained in battle without judgment with the WWS team member. Then, a Functional Medicine Health Coach develops an integrative nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle program along with a mental health strategy tailored to fit the participant’s needs. Some veterans can reach their wellness goals within six weeks, others take up to six months, but in every case, everyone has on-going support as long as they need it.
Rehabilitative and Adaptive Exercise
Some of the tools needed to help veterans rebuild their bodily strength are weights, exercise equipment, grip strength trainers and stability balls. Hurdles and cones are used to restore agility and quickness. Prior to and after an intense workout session, Foam Rollers and TheraCanes are used to help relieve painful trigger points and tight muscles. The ultimate physical goal for all wounded warriors is to reduce chronic pain and inflammation, improve tissue repair and restore strength and functional movement.
The first thing veterans want to do after returning home is eat real food. MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) are notoriously bland and are only used for survival. I’ll bet any soldier can tell you in detail the first real meal they ate after returning stateside, and it was probably high in calories and low in nutrition. Which is why getting veterans back to eating balanced, nutritious meals is a key factor in rebuilding a healthy lifestyle.
Nutrition counseling and cooking classes are offered at WWS, so veterans and their caregivers have the opportunity to learn healthy cooking techniques and how to prepare healthy meals at home. Tools include a set of non-toxic pans to cook meals in, and pyrex glass containers for storage.
Nutrabullet blenders and Vitamix machines are essential kitchen supplies needed to make healthy smoothies, soups and sauces. The recipes for these liquid meals include foods such as kale, beets, turmeric, ginger and coconut milk. These foods are packed with vitamins and minerals to cleanse the body of heavy metals and rebuild health and stamina.
Learning how to make meals from whole foods is a fundamental step towards health and wellness, and reducing inflammation and toxicity in the body.
iRest Yoga Nidra and Mindfulness Training
To improve the nervous system and to relieve the symptoms of insomnia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, the practice of Yoga and Mindful Meditation are employed. Such tools as yoga mats, yoga blocks and bolsters are used to build physical and mental stamina.
Warriors learn how to cope with stress, reduce anxiety and boost resilience by practicing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, a martial art used to train a warrior’s mind and body. In addition, boxing gloves, boxing pads, speed bags, grappling dummies and punching bags are tools to strengthen the decision-making process, controls impulses and boost confidence levels.
Exercise Bands, Cable Machines, Olympic barbells, kettlebells, battling ropes, club bells, mace bells and medicine balls are tools that have helped many warrior athletes win medals in Archery, Track + Field, Swimming, Cycling, and Shooting events in the Warrior Games, Paralympics, Invictus Games, and Valor Games.
“Honor the Fallen, Empower the Wounded – Always Faithful to those who have paid the most”
Vesta Construction Website’s client, PLH Group, is a proud supporter of Warrior Wellness Solutions. PLH Group has had a direct influence in helping combat veterans get back on the path to wellness, so they can lead healthy and productive lives, as highlighted in this video produced by Vesta.
To date WWS has provided customized health and wellness programs for over 1,440 service members and veterans resulting in many remarkable success stories. Currently, there are over 5,000 veterans waiting to receive services from WWS. To support these new requests, WWS’s goal is to grow their services so that veterans, their caregivers and families can not only survive, but thrive.
Helping our veterans regain health and wellness as they journey back to their families and communities requires all of us to do our part. Corporations or individuals that donate $2,000 will provide a comprehensive plan for one warrior and their family to rebuild their lives.
Check out this video about WWS and consider making a donation today.