New local veteran PTSD program

Texas Veteran Affairs Commission member and former Marine Jim Darwin, Brigadier General (retired) and State Representative District 2 Dan Flynn, Dripping Springs’ State Representative Jason Isaac, County Commissioner Ray Whisenant, Warrior’s Path Founder James Irwin, and Warrior’s Path (Boulder Facility) volunteer Josh Goldberg, all are lending their support to the local program development.

By: 
John Pacheco

Operation Warrior’s Path, a new PTSD and reintegration assistance program for veterans, held its initial introduction presentation to the Dripping Springs community on Monday July 24, at the Loralee Foundation Ranch on Fitzhugh Road.

The event was attended by various local government elected officials, including: Dripping Springs’ State Representative Jason Isaac, County Commissioner Ray Whisenant, and DSISD School Board Member Mary Jane Hetrick; as well as representatives from the offices of Dripping Springs Congressman Roger Williams and State Senator Donna Campbell.

Operation Warrior’s Path will be a residency program, which will aid veterans dealing with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) as well as societal and family reintegration issues. The program uniqueness derives from its holistic approach which includes the spouse and a renouncement of the use of drugs.

“In dealing with (reintegration) problems, the veteran often becomes the villain in the family life. To treat him and return him to this family is ineffective. The moment he returns and walks through the door, the family sees the same villain who left. By including the wife in the treatment, we help change that viewpoint and help in the reintegration of the couple and the family. As for the use of (psychiatric and opioid) drugs, it’s far too easy for the VA to prescribe drugs, then wash their hands of the matter. We don’t use drugs. We believe that drugs are the things that are killing our veterans,” Operation Warrior’s Path Founder James Irwin said.

Irwin, who is spearheading the local initiative, is a veteran himself who experienced difficulties upon his return from Desert Storm. “Even now I’m reluctant to speak about my own issues, because Desert Storm was short lived compared to what is happening now. The Afghani conflict has been going on for 16 years, and some of these guys have seen multiple tours. There’s also the stigma associated with seeking help. Upon my return, when I told my buddies I had gone to see a mental health specialist, they immediately gave me a wide berth. It’s not popular to express weakness in military circles. You have to remain tough, you have to complete the mission. That’s the mindset,” Irwin said.
Irwin said he was helped by a holistic program similar to what Operation Warrior’s Path curriculum will be. “My wife and I faced some difficulties upon my return. But because my wife went through a program as well, it helped us both mend. I think including the spouse is an important difference,” Irwin said.

Irwin and his group were twice blessed by running into organizations that helped speed up their program development.
“We knew we wanted to help veterans, and we knew how we wanted to help veterans. We were on a 5-year plan, then discovered an organization that already had a program in place that was what we were trying to create from scratch. By using that existing program as a template, we greatly accelerated our organization. Next, we began looking at raising funds to fund a facility where we could do a residency program, and the people at the Loralee Foundation Ranch said, ‘Why not use ours?’” Irwin said. “All of a sudden our 5-year plan became much shorter.”

The local Loralee Foundation Ranch was perfect for Irwin’s program. The multi-use facility is a non-profit which includes sleeping cabins, a dining hall, as well as various amenities; all on a scenic 100+ acre property.

The present goal is for Operation Warrior’s Patch to become operational in November of this year. The residency program is slated to be 7 days for the veteran and 3 days for the spouse. The selection of veterans accepted into the program will be based on a committee approval. A veteran separation form DD214 as well as interview will be required of all applicants. “An evaluation based on the DD214 and what’s happening in the veteran’s life, will help us prioritize applicants,” Irwin said.

Veterans wishing information on the program can visit: operationwarriorspath.org. “The Dripping facility is not quite ready to accept veterans, but we can accept veterans for our Boulder Crest facility,” Irwin said. “Our hope is to get the local program up and running shortly. To that end we would also appreciate inquiries from potential volunteers. Our capacity will now be limited by the number of trained facilitators and volunteers available. We are a non-profit, and no one makes one penny from our organization, so we have a strong need for volunteers who care about what we are trying to accomplish; and of course, financial donors,” Irwin said.

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