All posts by Kanani Fong

Founder, WarRetreat.Org, devoted to helping with the aftermath of war through movement, breathe, and yoga. Army wife, long time mental health advocate, writer, specializing in military and veteran outreach for film and books. Projects include Restrepo, and High Ground.

Open Up Post-Combat Offerings to Private Military Contractors


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Contractors –some veterans, some not, journalists, and their families go through war too. And often,post-combat programs in sports, outdoor recreation, the arts and counseling, are geared solely to veterans.

I’d like to suggest that organizations find a way to non-veterans others into their programs. Whether it’s a private military contractor or a journalist, each needs recovery and restoration from war.  This blog was started when we held the first WarRetreat for combat journalists (in Cambridge MA), after Tim Hetherington passed away. And what we read is that journalists might go in and out of war for decades, without having access to mental health services –especially since so many are freelancing now.  Similarly, Sebastian Junger found out that journalists don’t have training in first aid –nor are their medics in many of the places they cover. Hence, RISC was born.

While this won’t be popular –especially with those on the left, the staffing of war is complex, and it’s very much related to politics.  But I’m asking that organizations find space for contractors who fulfill roles traditionally held by the military, but are now being outsourced. It’s not whether we agree with policies -it’s putting service to others above the politics of war.

Yoga People: Stop Posting Selfies

Yah, so it’s been awhile. We have no excuses.  So sorry. But we have news to post about an upcoming Paradox Sport climb, and we want to comment on the last exit of Canadian troops from AFG.  But first….

Yoga teachers post a lot of selfies on Facebook. We see a myriad of photos –from what they’re wearing to class (in case you can’t wait), to proof that they can touch the back of their head to their ass, or lodge their foot in their crotch.  But more hilariously are the number of “Likes,” or comments. This validation of the ass to head selfie is either a form of politeness, or truly, yoga is full of narcissists. Or maybe they just need a foot to the crotch. We can only say, “We will file this extraneous information into its proper place.”  It must be like an itch. Ommm…. click click click.

So really. Stop it. It just makes you look like this.

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Sebastian Junger’s “Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues” (RISC)

Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues advanced first aid skills
Reporters Instructed In Saving Colleagues advanced first aid skills  (Click photo to find out more or donate)

“I had 20 years of combat journalism – and no medical experience,” he disclosed to my surprise when I recently followed up with him on the phone for the first time since Hetherington’s heartbreaking death. “Some (of my colleagues) are cavalier, most are fatalists.” -Sebastian Junger, interviewed by Lauren Wissot in “Filmmaker Magazine”

One of the projects sparked by Tim Hetherington’s death in Misrata, is an effort to provide advanced life saving skills to journalists who venture into dangerous conflicts.

Slideshow of RISC at the Bronx Documentary Center, NYC

RISC is a multi-day course available for free, which takes journalists through scenarios to save the life of their colleagues –and perhaps even themselves. RISC originated in NYC. Another course will be offered in Istanbul.  Mike Kamber, a NY Times journalist and a good friend of Tim’s, has hosted the course at the Bronx Documentary Workshop. RISC has expanded to London, and soon, Istanbul.

Wissot asks Sebastian about PTSD, and whether or not RISC addresses this.  They did, in London, but with mixed results. Addressing PTSD is not straight forward. First, not everyone develops it.  Second, even those who do have it, might not want to be reminded. But, RISC should keep trying because PTSD is like a pernicious weed.

In 2011, WarRetreat sponsored a retreat for combat journalists in Cambridge MA. Led by Dave Emerson, the program offered 2 days of yoga, acupuncture, massage, and talk about how PTSD manifests itself in the body.  It was a very much welcome respite for the group, which unfortunately was cut short by Hurricane Irene. Perhaps WarRetreat needs to get back into the business of having our own WarRetreats. Or, perhaps RISC can change things up.

I wonder if RISC would consider it as a transition piece between the end of the class, and going out beyond the doors. Say, 20 minutes. A quick series of gentle yoga movements that call attention to body and breath awareness, while asking them to notice if they’re relaxing or clearing their mind, might be a gentler way to address the effects of trauma on the body. Plus, everyone will feel terrific when they leave. It might keep people open to the idea that PTSD does manifest itself in the body, and there is relief.   In addition, if they have a teacher, it needs to be a person who has been through war. There’s just no two ways about. A person like Chris Eder, or Randy Hamlin, are leaps and bounds more accepted in any community that has been through war.

Read Lauren Wissot’s interview of  Sebastian Junger in Filmmaker Magazine.

A Game Changer: Rivers of Recovery

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Rivers of Recovery offers fishing trips in communities across the country. Guided by veterans, or supporters, the fishing trips make a huge impact on the lives of everyone who participates. Regardless of physical or emotional challenges, Rivers of Recovery accommodates everyone.  A community builds as the hours, days, and weekends go by. Men and women talk about their lives, the find others who understand and profound changes take place. From there, the healing begins, the understanding that there is a tomorrow and they are not alone. Edgar Duffey, in the video below, calls it a game changer in the world of therapy. Movement, Breath, and Community.

“You see your boys in front of you getting engaged. All you could is sit there and watch while your boys get messed up. I have never been so utterly scared in my entire life ever.” -SGT Edgar Duffey, US Army Veteran, speaking for Rivers of Recovery

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Counselor Writes: Many Veterans Recover From PTSD

ImageA note written by Michael Stoltz, executive director of the nonprofit groups Mental Health Association in Suffolk and the Suffolk County United Veterans, pushes back at the incorrect assumption that no one learns to cope and live with PTSD.  He writes in Newsday:

     “There have been far too many losses of our soldiers by suicide and other causes — even one is too many. But there are also veterans and nonveterans who have courageously found paths of recovery to happy and full lives despite PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

     Make no mistake, this journey contains many challenges, and there is no single solution. However, both the federal Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration and the Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD note dozens of evidence-based practices and “promising practices” that have helped.”  To read more, go to Newsday.

WarRetreat asks U.S. Army Veteran Dyan Ferguson: “What’s Love?”

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For Valentine’s Day, we asked those who serve veterans after war through innovative programs, “What’s War?”

“What is LOVE? 

Love is what I feel when I take a moment to feel my breath and my sensations… to look at a bird or the clouds… to feel the sun on my skin… to smell or taste a warm cup of strong coffee… to notice people around me and to offer a smile… When I take a moment to really pay attention to my internal world and to what is happening around me, my mind goes silent for a few seconds.  Then I feel real, deep, endless love.  And that is always followed by the bubbling up of gratitude for everything life has given me — from my family and friends and everything they bring to me life, to the fact that I live in a democracy that cares about its citizens’ well-being, to the opportunities I have had to serve others, whether in the military or a nonprofit that supports veterans… And in those moments of feeling love and gratitude, I invariably re-commit to love and generosity and service to this world we share and each of its inhabitants.” -Dyan Ferguson, U.S. Army Veteran, Co-Founder, Honoring The Path of the Warrior
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Honoring The Path’s founders, Chris Fortin & Dyan Ferguson at a veterans’ retreat.

Dyan is one of the founders of the organization, “Honoring The Path of The Warrior.” They take combat veterans into the great outdoors, introducing them to white water rafting, hiking, and teaching them stress reduction through yoga and meditation. These free retreats are in Northern California. “The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their own strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.”

Find out more about Honoring The Path of The Warrior!

WarRetreat Asks Team Red, White, And Blue: “What’s Love?”

Ryan Moline, far left, with the Team RWB Chicago Chapter

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked the movers and shakers of the veterans service organizations, this essential question:

“What’s Love?”

“To me, love is the foundation for all things that we feel are worth fighting for – our friends, our family, our country – and for Team RWB, it’s our way of showing love for our veterans as we believe THEY are certainly worth fighting for. Without them, love would be a little bit harder to understand and appreciate. For that, we can never thank or love them enough!”  -Ryan Moline, Team Red,White, & Blue, Chicago Chapter

Ryan is part of the dynamic Chicago chapter of the national organization, Team Red, White, & Blue. Team RWB‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. Through RWB Chapters & Communities, the Veteran Ambassador Program, and Veteran Athletic Camps, the organization engages veterans from all backgrounds and abilities, to help them regain a sense of camaraderie and community.

Learn more about how Team RWB helps veterans!

WarRetreat Shares WILD LOVE on Valentine’s Day.

“I wanna be in the mountains, but I want to SHARE it.” -Timmy O’Neill, Paradox Sports

Timmy201Happy Valentine’s Day!  We’re sending you a ‘karmic boomerang of love.”  While we slack off on the blog now and then, it’s never far from our mind. For Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing WILD LOVE, a video on love, loss, and passion for living. 

Here’s a good question, “What’s love to you?”

“Timmy O’Neill is an outrageously fast and funny climber, a world-class slackliner and class 5+ kayaker. But more than that, he’s incredibly smart, kind and passionate about his life and the lives of others. Wild Love illustrates his dedication to helping people, to exploring and learning and his insatiable love for living this life, right now—before it’s gone.” Timmy is the co-founder of “Paradox Sports,” a leader in adaptive sports for everyone.

 

 

“What’s Love?” WarRetreat Asks U.S. Navy Veteran Carl Salazar

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Carl, third from left, relaxes with participants in Expedition Balance’s veterans retreat at “Camp For All” in Texas.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked the movers and shakers in the veteran service community, this essential question:

“What’s Love?”

“Service. Service means everything. Service is love in action. Service is love – manifested.” -Carl Salazar, Founder, Expedition Balance

Carl is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and a combat veteran. He founded his non-profit organization, Expedition Balance, to help veterans and family members regain their footing on solid ground. Expedition Balance is committed to helping combat veterans who return home with emotional trauma regain their lives. It starts with a week in the woods and ends with veterans reconnected to their families, friends and futures.  At Camp For All, veterans relax in a structured environment, where they experience yoga, meditation, and physical activities such as hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and an obstacle course.  In addition, Expedition Balance recently branched out to the Los Angeles area, where yoga classes are taught at various locations by Marlena Groomer.

Click To find out more about Expedition Balance.

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“What’s Love?” U.S. Army Veteran Eric Walrabenstein Responds

For Valentine’s Day, we asked movers and shakers in veterans’ service organizations: What’s LOVE?

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“Love is, at its essence, a kind of capacity…

to be present for others.

to allow for our differences.

to endure difficulty.

to go beyond our self interest.

Love is the capacity to do all of this with an effortless grace that allows us fully and spontaneously embrace all that is.” -Eric Walrabenstein, Veteran, U.S. Army, Bootstrap Stress Management System

Eric Walrabenstein
Eric Walrabenstein, U.S. Army Veteran

Eric Walrabenstein is a nationally-recognized expert in the fields of yoga and mind/body health and the founder of Yoga Pura, one of Arizona’s largest yoga centers. As a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army, he knows first-hand of the sacrifice and dedication the members of our armed forces make every day. 
 
His wide-ranging experience in the military and civilian sectors, combine with his profound understanding of yoga technology and mind/body health to make him uniquely equipped to help our troops and veterans end their struggle with chronic military-related stress conditions. 
 
In addition to his work with BOOTSTRAP and teaching at his Arizona center, he regularly travels the nation training yoga, meditation, and mind-body health teachers from around the world. 

Developed by veterans for veterans. Get your free kit!
THE BOOTSTRAP KIT:  Developed by veterans for veterans. CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE KIT!