02 February 2015

Military “Appreciation”

Action! That’s how you can show appreciation to our military.

While many an organization, a business, or a community group will show their “appreciation” by hoisting a banner, offering a discount, or giving a speech (which are all well and good), true appreciation comes from actions that demonstrate such a perspective. As a 20-year U.S. Army veteran, I’ve learned to decipher who is sincere in their gratefulness and who is just throwing me a bone and checking the box.

In May, at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), practitioners had the opportunity to learn about military mental health and battlefield stress. Placing this initiative on the agenda – for the second year in a row – was an excellent gesture from the APA to address a crucial issue among our military. Our own psychologist on Project Sanctuary’s Board of Directors, Lt. Col. (Dr.) David Tharp (please tag his name for a link within RallyPoint), serving both the Veterans Administration (VA) and the U.S. Air Force, understands this, too. “I serve with Project Sanctuary because the opportunities for moving forward in a positive direction in marriage, with your family, in mental health, and in life are endless, and there is nothing more important than doing that with loved ones, and people who truly care about you and your service to this great nation.” Thanks to the APA for including military mental health in the annual program. I’d call that appreciation with action!

Senator John Walsh (D-MT) is the first Iraq war veteran to serve in the Senate (that is, until the recent mid-term election results) – and he’s spearheading the Suicide Prevention for America’s Veterans Act. Among the many initiatives contained in this legislation, two of them are: extending special combat eligibility for health care from 5 years to 15 years and boosting the number of mental health professionals at the VA by underwriting medical school costs for psychiatrists in exchange for a VA work commitment. “We do a very good job of taking (a) citizen soldier and making a warrior out of him,” Walsh recently told CNN. “But we aren’t doing a very good job of taking that warrior and reintegrating him back into society.” Sounds – and acts – a lot like appreciation!

Now let’s take this appreciation from a different angle. What about appreciating the families of those in uniform? We didn’t hear a lot about that in November during Military Family Appreciation Month – or throughout the other eleven months of the year. “Way to go unrecognizable Army wife!” “We’re proud of you hard-to-identify Navy son!” “Support our Marine Corps reservist Moms in small towns everywhere!” You get the point.

More and more we’re hearing from family members and caregivers that they’re appreciated at our Project Sanctuary retreats – and we’re really excited about this feedback. One military spouse who attended a recent retreat wrote, “I had a great time – definitely time to reconnect… as a family. I had some time to learn from other moms…we remembered how to enjoy spending time together. We remembered we are fun!”

How do you feel most appreciated for your service?

About Project Sanctuary:
Project Sanctuary has hosted 61 retreats since 2007, serving nearly 500 military/veterans and over 1,300 of their family members. Some simple math from this state-school-educated brain says that 29% of our retreat participants are military, and 71% are family members. Simply put, we’re passionate about serving our military community – those in uniform AND those families and caregivers of our men and women in uniform. We say it all the time: the best way to “support the troops” is by supporting the family. Now that’s appreciation with action to back it up! 

Comment below or start the conversation here and connect within the military community.

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