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The Trauma of Veterans, Active Duty, And First Responders

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger
The Truth Network Radio
May 13, 2022 3:30 am

The Trauma of Veterans, Active Duty, And First Responders

Hope for the Caregiver / Peter Rosenberger

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May 13, 2022 3:30 am

In my recent interview with Mighty Oaks Foundation's Jeremy Stalnecker, we discussed ways the organization is addressing the intense needs of those who wore - and wear - the uniform.

"The Mighty Oaks Foundation is committed to serving the brokenhearted by providing intensive peer-based discipleship through a series of programs, outpost meetings, and speaking events. Our Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs hosts such Men, Women, and Marriage Advance Programs at multiple locations nationwide. The Warriors who attend are fully sponsored for training, meals, and lodging needs to ensure that upon arrival to the ranch, each Warrior is focused solely on his or her recovery and identifying purpose moving forward."

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Welcome back to Hope for the Caregiver.

This is Peter Rosenberger. This is the program for you as a family caregiver. I want to introduce you to a special guest, Jeremy Stalnacker from the Mighty Oaks Foundation. I'll let him tell you what this organization is about. They captured my heart. This is something I've been thinking about for a very long time.

And these folks are actually doing it. I'm very grateful to hear what they are about and what they're doing, the impact they're having. So Jeremy, welcome to the program. I appreciate it. It's great to be with you.

Absolutely. First off, tell me your background. You're a serviceman. You were in the Marines.

Correct. Yes, I served in the United States Marine Corps. I did a number of things, but I was deployed in 2003 as part of the initial invasion into Iraq. So we all kind of remember all that was going on at that time, January of that year. My unit was deployed. We were supposed to stay on the border between Kuwait and Iraq and just show a presence. And a couple of months later in March, we actually went in.

We breached the berm, secured the southern objective in the country, made our way to Baghdad and eventually came back. Of course, June of that year, June of 2003, came back from Iraq and almost immediately processed out of the Marine Corps. Kind of a crazy time and went into full-time ministry. So a weird transition. People always ask me, was that a good transition? It was not a good transition. It was a transition, though. And transitioned out of the Marine Corps. A month after being involved in combat, I was serving on a church staff and began a long journey.

Again, that was 2003. Served as an associate pastor there for five years and then pastored a church in the San Francisco Bay Area for another seven years. And in the process of all of that, met Chad Robichaud, who is founding the Mighty Oaks Foundation, Mighty Oaks Programs, which we'll talk about here in just a second, at that time. And so while I was pastoring, I was helping him get that off the ground. And that was back in 2012.

We've been doing this ever since. So yeah, at one point, God brought the ministry and the military together in my life and has allowed me to use both of those things to hopefully be a blessing and a help to families. My dad is a chaplain in the Navy for many, many, many years. And he spent the last three or four years specifically with Marines at Lejeune. Do you ever spend any time at Lejeune?

I spent all my time. Well, I spent my training time in Quantico, Virginia, and then my time serving in California at Camp Pendleton. He impressed on me some of the needs going on in military families. And during the time when you were there, we started going up to Walter Reed, my wife and I. So a lot of these combat wounded men and women coming back for the first time. And this was a little bit of a jarring thing for our country to see women coming back as severely wounded, many, many amputees. My wife is a double amputee, and so she was asked to come up there to spend some time with a lot of these folks repeatedly.

In fact, she sang for the groundbreaking ceremony of the Amputee Training Center at Walter Reed. And as I spent time with family members of combat wounded individuals, I could see the fear, the angst, the heartache, sometimes the abject terror, the despair. All this was going on, and I know that the residual impact of these wounds that a lot of guys are receiving, a lot of girls are receiving, can last a lifetime, and not just the physical wounds, the psychological wounds. A lot of people got their bell rung pretty hard with these IEDs, and the neurological trauma lasts a very long time.

Maybe for the rest of their lives, and for family members, that's a big part of it. And then the things such as alcoholism addiction play a part in all these things. So tell me about the Mighty Oaks Foundation. Tell me what you guys lock in on and share your heart and your ministry on this. We have been serving essentially three, you could say four communities since we began. The veteran community, that's those who have served. And early on, it was almost entirely combat veterans, those coming out of Afghanistan and Iraq.

That's why we started. Over the years that has changed. We've had Korean War veterans, Vietnam veterans, veterans of Desert Storm on into Iraq and Afghanistan. Now we have many folks who are veterans who served who are not combat veterans, and so they're bringing other things into our programs. But veterans, active duty service members, we've had a tremendous open door with the active duty community which is incredible trying to help folks get the skills they need before something bad happens in their life to be able to move forward. And then the first responder community so more and more police officers and firefighters those in the first responder community dealing with many of the same things.

And then the fourth community would be spouses and that can be men or women but the spouses of those who have served. And primarily what we deal with are those who are struggling with some degree of trauma. Now, again, that can be combat trauma. It can be trauma related to just their service more broadly, particularly in the first responder community. Maybe it's trauma that they experienced as a child, many experienced childhood sexual trauma and other traumas as a child as children. If they take into the military they take into their service, whatever it is they dealt with or saw experience it exacerbated the problems. And now they are overwhelmed that trauma from their past has become something that's prevented any kind of forward movement. As you mentioned, they often then will get involved in taking care of that themselves self medicating through drugs and alcohol other illicit behaviors, and all of those things come together to create a very, very hopeless situation for the service member for the first responder and for their families in many cases, someone who has served they have a family maybe they've spent you know 20 years in the military maybe much less but they come back a different person, if there's a physical handicap, something you know that happens physically that's more understandable and you know, maybe a psychological way. Then, as you mentioned the unseen wounds the post traumatic stress and now we're learning more about traumatic brain injuries and those things that alter behavior and alter really personalities and so these families are struggling to get back what they had, they don't know the person that came home to them they don't know what's going on what's wrong they can't understand even how to deal with that. We work with the service member the veteran the first responder through one of our programs we have week long programs where they come to a facility that is.

They're a little bit different from place to place but maybe a ranch or retreat center typically pretty isolated they come and they spend a week with us. And we talked about what trauma is what it's not. Most importantly, we talked about how they can move forward, how they can align their life to the life they were created to live that God is as God he is the creator he created them with purpose with meaning with value. And if they'll learn to align their lives to that then so many of the other things that have a hold on them, although they don't go away we don't forget the trauma still there the memories are there, but they no longer control us and we can move forward in spite of that. And so we'll help that person who's dealing with that trauma again, whatever the cause to move into that. And then on the other side of that we do our best to help them reintegrate back into their families to help their families as they're trying to understand some of these things, providing context and ultimately hope and understanding that things are different, they will be different, but there is hope, and there certainly can be a great life for those that will understand, you know what God has for them.

So very broadly and that's a that's a very broad brushstroke but that's what we do and, you know, we try to walk, then the course of life, beyond our program with these families. Jeremy I'm just really moved by this I got a buddy of mine who's a retired cop and lives out here with us. Now, we, we moved from Nashville, several years back to family's place out here in Montana.

And we, when I was in Nashville for many many many years we lived there for over 35 years. It certainly had a lot of folks from Fort Campbell, and would hear from chaplains and so forth, where they were struggling with, you know, spouses would wake up and their husband and usually was the case in this particular thing with would have a loaded 45 be sitting up. And, and this cop that I know out here that he said it's taken me several years just to come out here and bleed off from just the high alert that he was on he worked night shift in Seattle for years. I mean you can imagine the intensity of vigilance. Yeah. And, and I don't think people have a great understanding of what it costs a human being to stay on that level of vigils. Tell us about that because I'm sure you're seeing this with these first responders.

Yeah, absolutely. And that's one of the struggles that first responders have is that they're always on, and there's not a break, when you look at someone who is on a military deployment, a lot of crazy things can happen over the course of that deployment very traumatic things can happen over the course of that deployment, and then they come home now they may go back but there's a break there's physical separation there's time separation emotional separation and hopefully they'll be able to get some help in that process, and many don't. That's why we exist. However, in the first responder community. Same traumatic events can take place and it's a day in and day out series of events. I'm a chaplain with our local fire department here and one of the firefighters describe it this way and I think it's such a great picture he said one minute you're scraping the veins of a child who was killed in a car accident.

And then you have to go back to the station and change your uniform because now there's a community pancake breakfast you need to be a part of. There's never an opportunity to deal with what you've had to deal with. And so again the self medication and just, you know, harmful destructive behaviors. Then those behaviors are dealt with by families as you've mentioned. And so there has to be a context for that and that's why you know we're not a clinical program although there is a place for that I'm not against that. But we're not that what we do is try to put what has happened what is happening in its right context, as those who have been created by God when you talk about the emotional toll the physical toll, and then the spiritual toll if there's not a spiritual context a relationship with God, then it is very very difficult, I would suggest impossible to move forward in a meaningful way until you get that that taken care of. Well said I agree that the understanding of God's provision and faithfulness and and loving kindness in the midst of such horrific things is a hard thing for people to wrap their hearts and minds around and yet that is the path towards healing. Are you seeing, for example, those who are involved in child protective services and so forth, that are scarred by some of the things they've had to do they come into your program as well.

We have these conversations a lot. The short answer is no. There is a criteria for being a part of our program veteran active duty service member first responder or spouse. However, we regularly have folks who reach out to us many in the medical profession, we've expanded some of our understanding of what a first responder is to include nurses and even in many cases. Those who are working kind of peripheral to some of the first responder areas, whether it's dispatchers things like that, that will bring in and try to help. So we don't have a program specifically for many other areas where there is trauma, you mentioned a great one child protective services, but we do our best to provide other resources written resources books on our website we have hundreds of videos, as many other resources as we possibly can to provide help to those who are struggling for other reasons. Again, this is just an extraordinary work that you guys are doing and I'm thrilled to learn more about you all in and find out what you do and I'm talking to Jeremy Stalnecker from Mighty Oaks Foundation This is Peter Rosenberger This is hope for the caregiver website is Mighty Oaks Foundation.

Mighty Oaks and you can go out and see more about it. We're going to talk a little bit more when we come back from the break. This is Peter Rosenberger. This is hope for the caregiver.

We'll be right back. My name is Peter Rosenberger and many years ago when my wife Gracie became a double amputee, she saw the importance of quality prosthetics. She saw the importance of a support team and people that could help her regain her life after losing both legs. And she had this vision of creating an organization that would help others do the very same thing while pointing them to Christ.

And for more than 17 years we've been doing just that we purchase supplies. We send equipment, and we train and we send teams over to West Africa we've been working with the country of Ghana, several clinics over there now, and each week, more people walk because of Gracie's vision. In 2011 we launched a new program outreach to family caregivers, drawing on my now 36 plus years as Gracie's caregiver through a medical nightmare I offer insights I've learned all of it the hard way to fellow caregivers to help them stay strong and healthy while taking care of someone who is not. If you want to be a part of this, go out to slash giving slash giving help us do more. Standing with Hope, we're reaching the wounded and those who care for them. slash giving. Welcome back to hope for the caregiver. This is Peter Rosenberger, this is the program for you as a family caregiver we're talking with Jeremy Stalnaker from Mighty Oaks Foundation the Mighty Oaks Foundation it's mighty Oaks, talking about their work in with active duty veterans combat wounded first responders, and so many more that come their way that they are also able to at least point in the right direction they have very specific programs for those individuals and I want to talk about that I mentioned a friend of mine is a retired cop I got another guy that was talking to who was a sheriff for, I think, almost 30 years. And he said something to me and I don't know if this has come up in the car I can't imagine it hasn't come up in the conversation but I wanted you to talk about he said, I was so enmeshed in being around bad guys that I didn't know how to connect with normal decent people.

Sure. Is that something that did you guys have resonated with it and talked about. Yeah, so maybe not that specifically but when you asked earlier if we have other folks who are dealing with trauma such as Child Protective Services folks come through our programs. We don't and we try to provide as many resources as we possibly can to anyone who's struggling trauma is a universal human problem it's not reserved for those who served in the military and law enforcement with fire service. But the reason we limit who can attend our program to those categories that we've already discussed, is because those who have served in those areas, whether they're in the military there in the first responder community.

They really have in many ways, either out of necessity or just out of habit and time erected walls around their lives where they won't allow people who are not in that world to speak into their life. And the example that you just gave a police officer could say there's no one that understands what it's like to be me to do the work that I do to deal with the things that I do. I spend my time around the worst that society has to offer all the time, and people that haven't done that can't possibly know how to help me that's a, that's a, I would say, at least, it feels like a valid concern and a valid comment or position. So when we set up our programs, everyone who instruction our program everyone who teaches a class or leads a small group over the week that they're with us, everyone has been to our program has come through our program as a graduate has been trained by us for over a year to be able to lead those classes to lead those small groups, which means they're approaching the students from a position of lived experience. Other police officers who can look at another police officer and say, I know exactly what you're dealing with because I've done that I was there I was where you are I sat where you're sitting. And then I came to this place and I learned some things and I want to help you it's very much a peer to peer mentor mentorship type of relationship, same with our veterans and our service members. I know where you've been I know where you are I've been there myself, I don't have it all figured out, but I'm starting to move forward.

And, you know, particularly in these these areas that we're discussing, they're so unique in society, and they almost lend towards self isolation you're separate from everyone else. You need someone who's been there to speak into your life to at least initially tear down the walls, so that truth can be spoken, and that's been very very helpful for us. What is a success story that comes to your mind that just obviously just grips your heart that you look at you said, this is why we're doing this kind of thing what's what's one of those kind of there, there are so many we've had over 4000 people come through one of our week long programs and we've seen so many incredible things happen thousands and thousands of folks we've spoken to and other venues. I'll tell you what's kind of top of mind right now we started this week one of our first responder programs it's happening right now. And our first responder program was really something that was started out of need first responders came to us and said we need what you're doing with veterans. And we started to work with them. Couple of years ago we had a police officer from the Tulsa PD.

And it was a time when a lot of crazy things were happening in Tulsa, in particular, there had been the murder of a police officer some other incidents involving police officers. He came because he tried everything else he was about to lose his job, he came to our program, and God worked in his life radically. Since that time we've had over 50 Tulsa PD currently serving police officers attend our program.

And he went back he said God worked in my life this has changed everything for me he's still there he's still working. And not only that, but he's bringing his brothers and sisters in blue from that department to come to the program and that is a success story because that's God working any life, turning a life around, and then redeeming that life for the benefit of others. Those are those are deeply moving stories to hear that because, as I've talked to some of these law enforcement that the the suicide rate of combat veterans and wounded veterans, all of our veterans I think it's still is it still 22. Yeah, we, it's hard to know the numbers lag in fact I was on a meeting last week and they said we're two years behind I don't know why that is but we say it's about 22 a day we don't know the exact number the first responder number has gone up to over for they say four and a half a day because of the pandemic and other things. Yeah, it's a horrible horrible situation first responder community.

The numbers aren't as good, because there's not a central database, but they're very high as well amongst police officers and the carnage that is left in the wake of those horrific events that kids and family members and parents and, you know, it just, it's, it's indescribable and we have a responsibility to care for these individuals who have put themselves on the line. God bless you all for what you're doing. Mighty Oaks Foundation, Mighty Oaks, Mighty Oaks This is Jeremy Stalnaker, this is Peter Roseberger with Hope for the Caregiver and we're glad to bring this to you all to to learn about this program to see how people are rising up and meeting in need God is obviously put this on your hearts, you've been on so many different media programs and outlets talking about this and God bless you for what you're doing. Jeremy, any last thoughts before we go here. I think the one last thought I would always have is there is always hope. So many think that life is hopeless there is no direction there's no purpose there's nothing that can be done. There's always something that can be done there's always hope and there are people who really want to help you get there so reach out, don't stay in a hopeless place.

Well said. Thank you very much Jeremy Stalnaker Mighty Oaks, and it's the Mighty Oaks Foundation please go out and take a look and just see how you can be a part of this how you can point people to their services. We are asking for you to be able to connect folks to this wonderful program you're going to know people that are hurting, let them know about it. Okay, don't just stand on the sidelines let's get our sleeves rolled up and let's reach into people's heartache and point them to safety. Jeremy thanks so much for being a part of the program today. We're going to have you back on some more. This will be an ongoing conversation. Great, well thanks Peter I really appreciate it.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-19 07:29:32 / 2023-04-19 07:38:14 / 9

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