Monday, January 26, 2015

Yoga Provides Connection & Balance to Those with PTSD

Yoga’s purpose can be summed as the attempt to connect; the ultimate connection comes from the unification of the mind, body, and spirit, involving the balance of stretches and breathing for low-impact physical exercise and release. Yoga is also one of the most frequently offered mind and body practices at the Department of Veterans Affairs, making it a widely accepted and effective therapy option for those suffering from post-traumatic stress.

In a recent study by Military Medicine, a yoga program for the symptoms of PTSD in veterans indicated that a yoga intervention might improve the hyperarousal symptoms of PTSD and overall sleep quality, as well as daytime dysfunction related to sleep. This study also showed improved mood and decreased anxiety in participants of a 12-week yoga intervention. 

Photo courtesy of Yoga Journal

Denise Olsen, a Yoga Therapist who has worked extensively with service members through the Hope For The Warriors® Family Reintegration Program, has enjoyed the healing experiences veterans undergo when practicing yoga. She described the challenges that yoga helps to overcome:

Disconnection is one of the biggest problems our service members face when returning from combat. They feel disconnected from society, their family and most painfully, themselves. Yoga is a way to re-establish that connection. The science behind it is complex and intriguing. As a complimentary treatment, I personally have seen only positive effects. In our reintegration program, the people who practiced regularly progressed at a faster rate than those who didn't. There are empirical studies that support the use of yoga as a treatment for many things--one of them being PTSD. The best part of yoga is that anyone can do it. There are no negative side effects and it enhances any other therapy the individual participates in. 

According to the International Journal of Yoga therapy, yoga may provide an effective integrative treatment option for veterans with PTSD. Yoga practices may directly address symptoms of PTSD and may provide coping skills to enhance their quality of life. The breathing practices and concentration used in many yoga traditions may reduce worry and anxiety. In addition, yoga postures may help release trauma that has been physically manifested in the body.

The benefits of yoga have been discussed by Bessel van der Kolk, psychiatrist and author of Traumatic Stress: The Effects of Overwhelming Experience on Mind, Body, and Society. Van der Kolk’s publication discusses how PTSD has changed over the past 20 years. His renowned research explains the regulation of physical movement as a fundamental priority of the nervous system, focusing on and developing an awareness of physical movement can lead to improved synchrony between mind and body. This is beneficial, he says, for those suffering from PTSD because an improved sense of connectedness between mind and body gives rise to enhanced control and understanding of their "inner sensations" and state of being.

More information on yoga practices for service members and military families struggling with PTSD can be found here.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Above & Beyond Program Continues Support in 2015

The following testimonial comes to us from one of our service members, illustrating the struggles and successes of a typical Above & Beyond client.


Thank you so much for the encouragement because I really needed it. I won’t sugar coat because this is a very low time in my life. I can’t provide for my family life and believe I should. Below is my written statement and I also wanted to remind you that I would like to take advantage of linking with another mentor. As always God bless you for all you do.

For over a year I have had the pleasure of receiving assistance from Hope For The Warriors®. This organization, through the strong commitment and dedication from the staff, has done an [unbelievable] job returning confidence in my difficult time. I have struggled with post-traumatic stress since my return from Iraq in 2005. I have received numerous counseling [sessions] because of my horrific experiences during and after my active commitment and lost track of what I wanted to do for my family and in a career. Hope For The Warriors® has helped build my prospective from the ground up and has taught me what it takes to conduct myself as a professional. With continued assistance, I am optimistically job hunting with the confidence that I will obtain a career in an area that I can share my gifts and talents.



Meet the Team

In 2014 the Career Transition & Education (CTE) pillar met and conquered many challenges, setting the stage for an exciting and growth filled 2015. The year began with staff restructuring and the hiring of Matthew Baffoe as the Manager of CTE, it saw the growth of the Above & Beyond Program, continued success with the Spouse/Caregiver Scholarship program, established partnerships with two service member organizations – Hire Heroes USA and American Corporate Partners (ACP), established cross-pillar communication, and ended on a high note with Amber Johnson, a Critical Care Coordinator with Hope For The Warriors®,taking a leading role in the scholarship program.

Above & Beyond Seminar 2013
As Director of CTE, retired Marine Master Sargent and combat veteran, Brian Schiller established a partnership with ACP, a long-term mentorship program providing support in such areas as resume writing, interview skills, negotiation, and entrepreneurial establishment. In addition, he founded a relationship with Hire Heroes USA, a company that assists service members in the establishment of interviews with companies across the US. Brian has rigorously traveled the country as an emissary for Hope For The Warriors ®, laying the groundwork for future partnerships, educational and professional development conferences, and continued fundraising efforts. Brian’s goals for 2015 are to continue the expansion of the pillar, expand and refine the scholarship program, and to continue to build on the many successes of the Above & Beyond Program.

Matt Baffoe joined the organization in May 2014 and immediately put his deep experience as a business man and educator to use. He oversaw the operation of two successful scholarship campaigns, resulting in the awarding of seven total scholarships. Realizing the many physical and mental challenges faced by today’s service members, he established cross-pillar communication between the Critical Care Team and Above & Beyond. By doing so, the Above & Beyond team continues to monitor professional growth while cognizant of the mental well-being of service members and their families as they face the challenges of today’s job market. Under his tutelage, the Above & Beyond Program continues to grow into a thriving program. Baffoe’s goals for 2015 are many, including continued refinement of the Above & Beyond Program, additional work between pillars, assisting in the organization of CTE events, and the continued growth of the Scholarship program.

Above & Beyond Seminar 2013
Amber Johnson has worked with the scholarship program off and on for her entire six-year career with Hope For The Warriors ®. Her vast organizational knowledge includes Scholarships, Critical Care Coordination, Community & Military Relations, and IT. Her insight, spontaneity, and work ethic are invaluable to the team, and she began putting her mark on the scholarship program in late 2014. She has begun several quality control efforts that will strengthen the program and further its success. Amber’s goals for 2015 are to refine and update the application process and expand the program.

Above & Beyond Seminar 2013
Our Hard Work Continues

Our continued commitment to service members and their continued fight for a better station in life is demonstrative of the aforementioned service member [Q.S.] and thousands of others across the country. Although several service members have found jobs, refined their searches, and achieved their goals through Above & Beyond, the entire Hope team has worked with this case and when (notice the word “when” not “if”) he achieves the success he is looking for, our entire organization can rejoice.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Two Sergeants Enjoy a Day of Hunting on the Eastern Shore

On December 19-21, 2014 Hope For The Warriors® hosted two Marine Corps Sergeants, Andy Strickland and Joseph Harvey, for a duck and goose hunt at the Hope For The Warriors® House in Bozman, MD.

On Saturday, the day of the hunt, both Andy and Joseph ended up with their limits of duck and geese well before noon. It was a successful and relaxing day for two deserving service members.

“The time I spent with [those on the hunt] was relaxing and I was able to settle down and enjoy myself in the moment. If anyone has the opportunity to attend an event that Hope For the Warriors® is putting on I would highly recommend it,” said Andy. “The relaxation and sense of being you will experience will leave you with memories for a life time.”

After the hunt, the Marine Moms of Bethesda treated the group to a home cooked meal thoroughly enjoyed by all.

The Warrior House sits on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and the owner, Bob Pascal, has invited Hope For The Warriors® to utilize the home and land for program work. This hunt is just one of the many retreats that this beautiful property has been used for in the past year.

Hope For The Warriors® would like to thank Bob Pascal, Shawn Moore, who served as the guide for the hunt, and the Marine Moms of Bethesda for a great event!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Reiki Provides Relaxation Treatment to Those with PTSD

This article was written by one of our social work interns, Jennifer Aleman. It is the second blog in a series dedicated to exploring options for the treatment of PTSD.

What is Reiki?

Reiki is a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing. It is administered by "laying on hands" and is based on the idea that an unseen "life force energy" or “Ki” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. If one's "life force energy" is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. Reiki is a non-invasive, completely benign healing technique that is becoming more and more popular.

Photo Courtesy of Tabitha Hedrick

Reiki as Therapy

At a recent event for The Veterans Mental Health Coalition of NYC, Mayor’s Office of Veterans Affairs (MOVA) Commissioner Loree Sutton, M.D. shared a presentation on the importance of alternative therapies. She advocated that in recent years the Department of Defense (DoD) has been investing money in alternative therapies such as Reiki. Sutton explained that these alternative therapies are becoming the standard approach for PTSD treatment because of the impact they have on the body and mind. She supported that alternative medicines need to change from being viewed as “alternative” and shift to being viewed as core treatment.

Tabitha H., a Reiki practitioner and veteran, described her experience using Reiki to work with service members and veterans:

Photo Courtesy of
The relaxing state that people are in when they have a Reiki session is very conducive to healing. Reiki has been likened to meditation in its effects, but not everyone meditates the same. A person who is receiving Reiki will respond to the treatment in the way that is appropriate for them at that time. Also, as with meditation, the effects last beyond the time of the session. And the results are always seen - whether mildly relaxing or dramatically healing.

Reiki in Practice

In a recent study conducted by the Military Medicine Journal, researchers examined the effectiveness of Reiki, labeling it as “Healing Touch.” Researchers observed a drop in PTSD symptoms for the intervention group by 14 points (from 54.7 to 40.7) using the PTSD checklist, which is considered to be clinically, as well as statistically, significant.

Jennifer R., a Reiki master who was connected with Hope For The Warriors® in the past through our Clinical Health & Wellness Pillar, explained that, early in her Reiki career, the DoD actually paid for her Reiki education. In her practice she has seen huge improvements not only in her personal life but also with her clients. She went on to explain the benefits she has seen using Reiki to work with veterans:
Photo Courtesy of

Reiki benefits the military population and people that have PTSD because it elicits what we call the relaxation response. People that have experienced trauma and/or are anxious have difficulty reaching this healing state on their own. The relaxation response is a state of peace that can allow the body/mind to let go and reset itself and healing can begin.

Herbert Coley, civilian chief of staff of the Army Medical Command, released a memo regarding the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. He said a class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which are commonly used for PTSD, could intensify rather than reduce combat stress symptoms and lead to addiction. Coley questioned the efficacy of this drug class in PTSD treatment and clinicians were encouraged to look beyond drugs to treat PTSD. Although medication has been shown to be helpful for many suffering with PTSD, the conversation regarding the effectiveness of these medications has shifted to their potential to cause more harm than good.

Photo Courtesy of
The core treatment option of Reiki is growing in its consideration for military medicine as a treatment for PTSD. Reiki, like so many therapy options, could be considered core treatment for PTSD because of its holistic approach to combat symptoms of PTSD.

For more information on Reiki or how to incorporate it in your own PTSD therapy, please visit:

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Attention Virginia Post 9/11 Military Caregivers!

On Tuesday, January 27, 2015; Hope for the Warriors will be hosting a Post 9/11 Military Caregiver Wellness Workshop at the Fort Belvoir USO Warrior and Family Center. During the workshop, we will be focusing on Self-Care and Mindful Practices for Military Caregivers. Activities include: Art Therapy, Applied Theater Experientials and Therapeutic Yoga.   

I'm very excited about this great opportunity for Military Caregivers. I am also very happy to say I will be participating in and speaking at this fantastic event. Please check out the flyer below for more information on how you as a Military Caregiver can participate in the Wellness Workshop.  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Team Hope For The Warriors® Newsletter: January

Year In Review:
2014 was a great year for Team Hope For The Warriors®! More than 100,000 miles were run and cycled, enough miles to circle the earth over 4 times, and more than $350,000 was raised for Hope For The Warriors®. That’s around $3.50/mile! Each of you make a huge impact in the lives of our service members. This year many Team members met their goals, completed personal bests, and helped spread hope across the nation to our service members and their families.

We are looking forward to 2015 and making it an even better year focusing in on our mission of providing athletes of all abilities the opportunity to engage their competitive spirit at endurance events. We will continue to be the Team that is defined by our achievements rather than our injuries or obstacles as we are united in the goal of improving the rehabilitation of combat wounded service members and military families.

Team Races 2015:
Below are the confirmed dates and races for 2015, there will be more dates to come soon:

March 15, 2015 – United Airlines NYC Half Marathon  
Sold out

March 21, 2015 – MCCS Cherry Point Half Marathon

March 28, 2015 – Marine Corps 17.75K

May 17, 2015 – Marine Corps Historic Half

August 22, 2015 – Quantico Tri

October 11, 2015 – Army Ten Miler

October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon 10k

October 25, 2015 – Marine Corps Marathon

Fundraising Tip:
Use Twitter/Facebook to Say Thank You
Be sure to tweet and post personal thank you notes to those that donate to your fundraising page. Your family and friends will appreciate this recognition and will draw attention to your cause.  Be sure to tag our Facebook page and use our Twitter Handle, @Hope4Warriors and #TeamH4W.

Training Tips:
Winter is here! Here are some cold weather training tips:
  • Avoid over or underdressing for the weather by wearing layers. Dress as if it is actually about 10-15 degrees warmer.
  • Good clothing items to consider wearing, depending on the weather: gloves, hat or headband, insulated socks, pants, tights, long-sleeve moisture wicking shirt, a top-layer of clothing that blocks the wind, and a fleece layer on a very cold day.
  • Remember to hydrate before and after running.
  • Be sure to wear reflective, bright colors, or some type of light when running early or late in the day.
  • Remember that safety is more important than training outdoors. Try to find indoor alternatives if the weather is hazards such as a gym or treadmill.
Team Member Corner: Steve Bellone

Check Presentation at the 7th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors® (Steve is 4th from the left).
Steve Bellone ran the 2014 New York City Half Marathon with Team Hope For The Warriors® with the goal to raise $10,000 for Hope For The Warriors®. On Sunday, November 9, 2014 at the 7th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors® Steve presented Hope For The Warriors® with a check for $10,500, exceeding his goal. Steve is an Army veteran and also serves as the Suffolk County Executive in Long Island, NY. He is a great example of generosity and altruism to the community he serves.

Program information:
Here is the tentative 2015 Run For The Warriors® schedule. We hope you can join us at some of these races. Visit Run For The Warriors® to check for registration pages:

Saturday, May 16, 2015
10th Annual Run For The Warriors®, Jacksonville, NC

Monday, May 25, 2016
Inaugural Tampa Run For The Warriors®, Oldsmar, FL

Sunday, June 7, 2015
6th Annual Big Apple Run For The Warriors®, New York, NY

Saturday, July 4, 2015
4th Annual New Bern Run For The Warriors®, New Bern, NC

Sunday, August 16, 2015
6th Annual Sunset Run For The Warriors®, Shelton, CT

Saturday, October 17, 2015
2nd Annual DMV Run For The Warriors®, Washington, DC

Sunday, October 25, 2015
San Diego Run For The Warriors® Sponsored by the ASA, San Diego, CA

Saturday, November 7, 2015
8th Annual Long Island Run For The Warriors®, Lindenhurst, NY

Representing the Team:
Be sure to shoot us an email with your race schedule and where you will be wearing your Team jersey. Each time you wear your jersey, you help our mission to restore self, family, and hope. Feel free to share photos and special stories too!

Important Links For Social Media:

Twitter When you tweet be sure to use #TeamH4W

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Hope For The Warriors® Joins Community in Donating a Van to a Marine Family

Thanks to the efforts of an entire community, a Marine Family was presented a new handicap-accessible van on Friday, January 9 at their home aboard the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune. Hope For The Warriors® joined forces with another nonprofit and local community groups in order to purchase the van and improve mobility for both the Marine and his wife, supporting the needs of the entire family.  

Gunnery Sgt. Josh Thomas, his wife Carrie, and their two young children live aboard Camp Lejeune. Ten years ago, a snowmobile accident left Carrie without the use of her legs. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas supported his wife by lifting her in and out of the family’s vehicle. Gunnery Sgt. Thomas was deployed three times, and the first time he was wounded by an IED and was awarded the Purple Heart.

After he came home from his third deployment, he was scheduled for an operation. The operation did not, however, go as planned and Josh continues to face medical challenges. One challenge is the restriction of weight that he can lift to less than 10 pounds.  He can no longer lift his wife and the couple needed a handicap accessible van. 
Hope For The Warriors® worked with several businesses and organizations, such as Semper Fi FundMarine Chevrolet and Cadillac, and Van Products (who drove the van to the Thomas’s to make sure it suited their needs and made necessary adjustments) to make this donation possible.
The entire community worked together to care for the Thomas family. To raise funds and awareness, the Stroller Warriors, a community group, created a fundraising page and held a half marathon. Approximately $9,000 was raised through these community efforts and those funds will remain with the Thomas family to assist with other accessibility needs.
We thank the entire community, including donors and Hope For The Warriors® staff, for making it possible for this hero and his family to enjoy the ease and access of a new van!