Earlier in the year, Veteran Energy sponsored five Texas veterans for a retreat with Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, a charitable group that focuses on helping veterans, military members and first-responders cope with PTSD.
The organization, formed in 2011 by former Marine and law enforcement officer Chad Robichaux, works with about 700 men and women each year through its Legacy programs, according to Branden Kunath, the group’s national programs director. We talked to Branden last week to get a little more information about the programs.
“We’re so passionate about it because we are them,” Branden said, speaking about the organization’s instructors and how each must come up through the program.
All are veterans, and Branden—who also served–said it’s this peer-to-peer technique that’s made the program so effective.
“We are the guys who’ve gone through the program,” he said. “We know what they’re going through, and we understand why they’re there.”
Branden said many people dealing with PTSD just don’t know who to trust anymore, so they tend to bottle up their emotions. Sometimes, they won’t talk about how they’re feeling because they feel it may put their jobs at risk. Or they fear labels and criticism from friends, family and peers. And some have a hard time opening up to people who haven’t experienced the same types of traumatic events.
He said many of the participants at Mighty Oaks make bigger breakthroughs in just a few short days than they’ve made after months of therapy and counseling at other groups and institutions. Mighty Oaks isn’t a replacement for those types of services, he said, but sometimes it’s the first step to getting these men and women to really begin the healing process.
“We get them to unpack the rucksack,” Branden said. “A lot of them go internal at first. They don’t want to be judged. They put on a mask, and the mask literally becomes their identity.”
But with a little time, Branden said the Mighty Oaks instructors are successful at getting a high percentage of the participants on the road to wellbeing, for taking responsibility for themselves and understanding life isn’t over and that “there’s still something for them to do.”
The organization, which has separate programs for men, women and couples, currently operates four retreat centers in four states: Texas, Ohio, California and Virginia. Mighty Oaks hosts 27 programs a year.
The retreats are all in nature-based settings, which, Branden said, helps participants get away from some of the distractions most face in their modern-day lives and focus on themselves.
“It’s the first time for a lot of them to finally unplug,” he said.
Graduates of the programs, which run less than a week, get a certificate and extended services where team members help them stay connected and find mentors, counseling and other resources.
“It’s not five days,” Branden said. “It’s one moment—when they finally say ‘enough is enough. I’m tired of being a victim. I’m tired of being in this position. I’m ready to move forward.’”
For more information on the Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs, visit their website.