“Mission: We are 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.”
From Carl Salazar, USN Veteran, Founder & Director of Expedition Balance
Completely exhausted after another experience atCamp For All with some real-life heroes. Life-Changing. In our closing conversation, I told the Veterans and teachers of Expedition 10.13 this: Expedition Balanceis not a building. There is no world headquarters, no ExBal street. It is not a t-shirt, a yoga studio, a slogan, nor other stuff.
Expedition Balance is people.
It is yoga and meditation teachers, big-hearted volunteers, people who come to fundraisers, people who help us spread the word, people who donate their hard-earned money, people who write nice things about us, doctors and social-workers at the VA. Veterans.
To all you wonderful people who built ExBal into something that has changed a few peoples’ lives – thank you. To the people who made Expedition 10.13 a living, breathing demonstration of love in action – thank you. It is a sacrifice for our volunteers to give up their time and expertise for free. It is incredibly brave for our Veterans to show up and open their hearts to new experiences so they can help themselves. I am proud of all of you. I love all of you.
Thank you for enabling me to live to my fullest. Thank you for bringing out the best in me. Thank you for giving my life purpose. We make a difference. Together.
For more information on Expedition Balance, please find them on Facebook, twitter @ExBal and go to their website.
Fire a weapon, crawl through an obstacle course, work with veterans with combat injuries. Experience a tiny bit of the world a combat veteran has gone through. This is open to all certified yoga teachers who aren’t afraid of a challenge, and want to gain a hands-on experience in a safe environment for a one-day workshop in New Hampshire.
“The Combat Connection presents Yoga For Vets 101 a one day/12 hour intensive training course for yoga teachers with no military experience who want to teach combat vets,in a clinical or studio environment. Becky Blais and Paul Zipes, both military veterans and certified yoga teachers will teach this one day/12 hour course designed to immerse all certified yoga teachers in a safe, supportive and high intensity environment.”
This is an experiential boot camp for certified yoga teachers that will give them a hands-on experience into the world of a combat veteran. What does a weapon feel like? What have they heard? Learn a proven methodology of what works for veterans Boost your confidence and skill set by receiving information on military protocol, and terminology. Learn the 3 most common injuries of combat veterans, and what’s hands “off” and hands “on” when teaching. Paul and Becky have thoughtfully put this workshop together…. don’t miss it!
The Women Veterans Retreat at Tassajara Mountain Retreat Center from June 17th – June 21st 2013 and
The Whitewater Rafting trip open to both men and women from July 30th to August 2nd.
Both of these events combine nature and engaging physical activities with meditation, Sensory Awareness and mindfulness practices. The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.
US Navy veteran Scott Gunning made this video about a White Water Rafting retreat by Honoring The Path of The Warrior.
US Army veteran Steve Lewis talks about his experience: “You get a bond, and you have fun….” Here’s what others have said about these events:
I really can’t put into words what this trip meant for me, but I can say that this was easily one of the most meaningful and special experiences in my life. I got more out of this 4 day trip than I did in the entire 5 months that I was in the [...] PTSD program.”
“I just want to take the time to say thank you both from my complete and whole heart for what you two have given me this weekend. I’m speechless cause the gift you both gave me was HOPE. And I really can’t remember the last time I truly had it. The act of pulling a trigger from a man made weapon on another human being has shattered my person. You both have given me the hope and energy I need to some how find a way to try to put my shattered soul back together.”
All events are nondenominational and are completely free of charge to veterans. We do, however, welcome contributions from veterans and members of the broader community so that other veterans may attend future events. Please support us as you are able: Honoring The Path.
A growth in the number of veterans reached through yoga has been noted by the non profit group, Connected Warriors. The organization offers an organized effort to provide free teacher training to yoga teachers who want to work with veterans, classes for veterans and family members in the communities where they live. Just recently, Judy Weaver, founder of Connected Warriors, shared these numbers:
“I just have to share the Connected Warriors attendance record for the month of January 2013. We served 792 service members. Number of Family Members: 636, Number of New Members: 137. We are assisting veterans and their family members in 9 states in 35 weekly classes. Thank you to everyone who supports our mission to provide free yoga, you rock.”
In addition, Connected Warriors was invited to the recent Challenge America Military Opportunities to introduce the benefits of yoga to military families and veterans. The event was held at the Dallas Cowboys stadium, and in attendance were over a thousand veterans and families who heard lectures and interviews by Dr. Oz. In addition, the attendees took part in seminars, symposiums and guest speakers from area veteran and family support organizations that addressed an array of transitional issues, including mental health, employment, housing and family issues. The evening entertainment was a concert from Vince Gill and Amy and Amy Grant and also Jenny Gill.
Connected Warriors brought staff in from Florida, and also worked with its local Texas yoga studio affiliates and set up a yoga area in the stadium. They worked with many military family members and veterans, who were encouraged to seek them out in the community and come to the Connected Warriors classes locally.
To find out more about, request training, take a class from Connected Warriors and make a donation, go to: Connected Warriors, and also follow them on Facebook. To find out more about upcoming CAMO events, please click on the photo on the left.
Honoring The Path of the Warrior is having its Spring Fundraiser, a raffle to fund a
Whitewater Rafting trip and a retreat for women veterans.Go here to purchase your tickets! Your support is needed in order to make them happen, as all of the events are offered to OEF, OIF and Gulf War veterans at no charge. The raffle prizes are some of the best I’ve seen: resorts in Mexico and Calistoga, a white water rafting trip, massage, art work. Really, kids. These are serious prizes.
Here’s what one veteran had to say about a past HTPW event:
“Coming to the one-day events with other veterans, I feel like I am coming together with my family. As vets we kind of walk with the same rhythm. There is a sense of kinship. You know that other person understands what is essential. You’ve lived on what is essential and you know you can be
fine with that. This is why mindfulness and meditation goes so well with veterans. It is about getting down to that essential stuff – breathing, walking in silence. It is like what we learned and were trained in, in order to do our duties. Maybe you are being mindful in a different way, but it is still mindfulness. I have no desire to meet my fellow vets out at a bar. It is the place and quality of being held and cared for that makes these days very appealing and healing.”
- Paige Jenkins, U.S. Navy
Facilitated by Dyan Ferguson, a former US Army officer, Honoring the Path of the Warrior is a program that assists post 9/11 and Persian Gulf veterans in making a positive transition from military to civilian life. We provide a pathway of meditation and mindfulness that welcomes, honors, and integrates their service and leadership.
Their programs combine nature and engaging physical activities; meditation, Sensory Awareness and mindfulness practices. The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.
“Home is not where you live, but where they understand you” –Christian Morganstern
I think this is a similar feeling for many of us, for many different situations. Reflecting back on the retreat and the trauma-sensitive work, the idea of “coming home” is always a very prevalent one.
It has been a few weeks (okay…fine…almost a month) since the retreat in Boston and now that I’m finally settling in to Nevada after my big move, I just wanted to take a second and reflect. Not just for those who were unable to attend but foreveryone whose heart was in Cambridge that weekend.
From the moment the group came together it was apparent that everyone shared a bond. The photographers had their work tying them together and the “OM” team had the love for them and our work tying us in. I can honestly say that was the single theme that made the weekend for me, seeing everyone come together and have their “moments”.
During one of the yoga practices I was able to keep an eye on the group. Being careful not to tune into my own practice too much to miss these amazing individuals having their own little moments on their (super fantastic Jade) mats. Watching these individuals who had been through so much in their lives, come together and just let a little bit of the pain go…that was what made the weekend.
Unfortunately the hurricane put a damper (get it!?) on the end of the weekend, but themoments on the mat and the conversations that were had made it work out just the way it should have.
However, even though War Retreat is changing, this is not the end. We have an amazing group and will continue to do the work that needs to be done to support those we all share a passion for. For us this work is like “coming home”.
Because of Hurricane Irene, most of the participants went home on Saturday morning, catching the last bus back to NYC at 11 AM. All of the mass transit was going to be shut down in New York until at Tuesday, so they had no choice but to leave prior to the big surprise we had planned for them. While our corporate sponsors prAna, Jade, Kulae and China Gel had wowed over our participants with generosity and gifts, what they hadn’t received were the hand-knit scarves made by a team of knitters from across the U.S.
However, we were able to present scarves to Dave Tobin of the Syracuse Post-Standard Newspaper, and LTC (ret) Paul Fanning, who was the head of the NY Army National Guard Public Affairs for many years. Paul placed many reporters as embeds in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the course of his career. Both had a six and three hour drive ahead of them, and we were grateful they stayed for another round of yoga, plus a massage.
The next day, Jillian and Dave packed the rest of the scarves along with an anthology of
poetry prepared by Pamela Hart, the mother of an Army Ranger. They were sent with personal messages from the knitters. This includes a packet of letters, one of them is reproduced here, from Sgt. Misha Pemble Belkin’s mother Candy. Like myself, both Misha and Candice were personal friends of Tim’s.
I wanted to add a note to the scarf I am sending to you so you would know how grateful I am to be a part of this project to honor my friend Tim Hetherington.
My son is Sgt. Misha Pemble-Belkin now deployed for the second time to Afghanistan. Tim met my son o his first deployment at OP Retrepo, while filming with Sebastian Junger. He would often tell me on the short phone calls home about this British guy that was out there taking pictures of them, and how he would make fun of his accent and his drinking tea.
On one of his calls home, he told me that Tim had broken his ankle and they had to get him off the mountain to a spot where a helicopter could pick him up. (Just a side bar to this story, my son had fallen off a cliff on a night patrol, they thought he was dead, so they sent for a medic to go down and check before they brought in a chopper. When they got down to the bottom, he was standing up, cut up, and with concussion. His sniper rifle had been bent in half. He told me most of the guys had taken falls off those steep slopes).
Anyway, here is Tim –broken ankle, on morphine, sliding down the mountain on his butt and he rips a hole in his pants, slides into a bush and nearly pokes his eye out on a branch. Misha being the sensitive guy he is walks past Tim, pats him on the shoulder and says, “Hey, now you look like the rest of us!”
I finally met Tim while I was in NY and we traded stories about that day and many others. We share a lot of laughs: he had a fantastic laugh. He became part of our family, had shared so many experiences with our son through those horrible 15 months.
One of the first images that I had of my son was the picture Tim took, and I took it and hung it up on in my workshop so he was with me everyday. It gave me the strength to face those months and to stay strong for my son. I can’t express in words what a gift Tim gave to his mother.
Tim and Sebastian had planned on following Mish back to Afghanistan, that of course did not happen. I have been struggling with what I could do to let strangers know what a wonderful talented human being he was, so when this project came up I was all over it.
I wanted to let you know much much I appreciate the work you have done and may continue to do so. You help shed light and truth on stories where others may not have the courage to. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
The War Photographers’ Retreat is fortunate to have many friends. One of these is northwest textile designer Cynthia Hereen. She’s also a breeder of livestock that produces high quality wool, and well-known judge from Hokulani Farms in Oregon. Cynthia designed this beautiful wool scarf, then shared the pattern with a team of knitters from across the U.S. (who volunteered through this site). Each knitter purchased, knit, washed and blocked the wool.
We’d like to thank our incredible team of knitters for their generosity and time.
Of course the main point of the retreat is to provide the participants with a break from the hustle and bustle of their lives, giving them a relaxing few days of yoga, massage and acupressure/acupuncture. But we thought it would be nice to have a casual BBQ Saturday night, giving everyone a chance to meet and mingle, share stories and laugh, in a relaxed atmosphere.
The BBQ will also be a time for celebration when we provide the participants with the amazing scarves designed by our knitting director Cynthia Hereen, brought to life by our wonderful team of volunteer knitters. The knitters are from across the U.S., and as you’ve read in USO ON PATROL, one is the mother of a soldier who was a friend of Tim Hetherington’s. Candice Pemble Belkin’s son Misha is currently serving in Afghanistan, and was in the film Restrepo. It’s an honor to have a mother who is going through the natural worry of having a loved one in combat take time to knit scarves.
The photographers will also be receiving a beautiful poetry chapbook by Pushcart nominee Pamela Hart, which she produced just for the retreat. Poetry and war have gone hand in hand through the ages, and putting this together was a meaningful experience for her. Pam and her husband donated the costs of printing. Their son is an Army Ranger.
It will be a night of relaxation, celebration, and remembrance. So we are thankful to everyone who has made this event possible and we cannot wait for it to happen!
Over on the prAna blog, I share my thoughts about Tim, and about my wish to find a creative way to pay tribute and continue to shine his light. It was one of those articles that caused me to circle several times around the computer wondering what to write. I hope you will read The Textures of Yoga & War. prAna has been so generous to give us thisspace.
We’re pleased to announce that high quality climbing and yoga apparel manufacturers, prAna is a corporate donor to the War Photographers’ Retreat. In addition to manufacturing clothing and accessories, prAna also sells Fair Trade items, and has made eco-conscious decisions when it comes to business. They also support many fine athletes, and going through their YouTube channel always brings up amazing people. We’re grateful for the far-reaching vision of Melissa, Debbie, Camerin, & Andre to see the War Retreat as worthy of your support!