Veteran’s PATH gives returning soldiers the tools to heal and move forward
The benefits of mindfulness and meditation are widely celebrated for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, substance abuse and other conditions. However, all too often the people who would most benefit from these skills don’t know about them. In 2008, Lee Klinger Lesser and Chris Fortin set up Veteran’s PATH specifically to bridge this gap.
Both Lesser and Fortin are mindfulness and meditation teachers with backgrounds in mental health. They are also mothers. Lesser and Fortin came together to share a mutual concern about what was happening to returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan and wanted to contribute to a more welcoming and productive transition from the military into civilian life.
Lesser and Fortin founded Veteran’s PATH and sought to adapt mindfulness and meditation to the unique needs of the veteran community by providing mental health and life skills programming for those returning home.
Veteran’s PATH currently serves hundreds of veterans each year, and offers several programs, the most substantial of which is the four-month Anchor Program.
James Pond, Executive Director of Veteran’s PATH and U.S. Marine Corps veteran, says “this is a very different approach to care for veterans. We begin the program with a five-day retreat, which is a rich experience. It is followed by a 15-week supportive program, during which veterans are engaging with their cohort, facilitator, and doing exercises, practices, and other elements of the program.“
“There are two weekend retreats that bookend the 15-weeks, in which veterans reconnect with one another and support each other’s healing process. This program has had the best results and we are doing two for women and one for men in 2018,” Says Pond.
Through the practical tools of meditation and mindfulness, physical and outdoor experiences, and a sense of community, veterans rediscover peace and acceptance in a new journey forward.
Veteran’s PATH has seen the impact of its programmes on the lives of the many who have participated. One of those is Jeremy L., former U.S. Marine Corps.
“The community and tools learned at Veteran’s PATH saved my life. With the support of Veteran’s PATH, I am now living my life with intention to have a greater sense of wellbeing moment to moment,” says Jeremy.
Yolanda, former U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, OEF, and OIF, says “I know how to incorporate my mindfulness when I have triggers that are hit and instead of exploding or isolating like I used to, now I can deal with things in a different way.“
“It’s easier for me in my life and I am much happier to have learned how to do it correctly. Veteran’s PATH [can] change your life. It is spiritually impacting. It changes your mindset of how you think of yourself and others. It’s uplifting, motivating, and positive. It’s all the things that have been missing from your life, and you didn’t know it,” says Yolanda.
For more information visit www.veteranspath.org