I am going to present a recipe for a bad day and you tell me when it starts to taste little familiar. First start out with three cups of fatigue then fold in hopelessness and an inability to focus-those are your dry ingredients. Now add in your spices-they will consist of anger, fear and shame. Bind it all together with isolation and sleepless nights and you will begin to hate what is cooking inside of you. In this scenario, all of your friends and family believes you to be a strong and fearless cook so you feel like you can’t ask for a little help because helpless is not as you see yourself. Instead you try to fix the recipe by adding in alcohol or other substances which only serve to make this recipe a toxic poison.
Did you find the taste of this recipe a little familiar? Most probably didn’t even get past the dry ingredients before the ingredients became unfamiliar and foreign. Unfortunately, for a percentage of soldiers returning from war, that mix is exactly what they are cooking.
I met Dale Johansen at Home Lumber just the other day. I was there for supplies but Johansen was there to help re-build lives. He chairs “Project New Hope” (www.projectnewhope.net) which is an organization that has one simple mission, “to provide veterans AND families the education, training and skills necessary to manage their lives after wartime service.” Project New Hope believes in “whole-family” healing as the veteran is probably not the only one who’s hurting. His or her spouse may struggle with the changes in their spouse and children may lack the maturity to adjust to the absence of their parent and even when the soldier returns home from war.
Project New Hope presently offers week-end retreats for the veteran and family at Camp New Hope which is located on Glacier Lake near Duluth. The retreat is free of charge and all meals are included. All sessions go at a pace determined by the veteran and family, everything is kept low-key and a counselor is available 24/7. Camp New Hope has welcomed veterans of every war to sessions that vary from anger management, to money management and even help with sleepless nights. A soldier’s life is such a spartan existence and it seems they rarely are able to put themselves first. This camp asks the veteran to please put themselves first and focus on what has made their life troubled.
Dale Johansen briefly described his life to me after his time in the Vietnam War. It sounded a lot like the toxic recipe I described at the beginning of this column. It’s clear to me that his mission is to make veterans into good cooks with a recipe for a better life. If you’re a veteran and would like to attend a week-end retreat or know someone who could use these services, please contact Johansen through www.projectnewhope.net, email to email@example.com or write to Project New Hope 72530 CSAH 27, Dassel, Mn 56586. You may also donate to this mission using the same points of contact. Project New Hope will also have a booth at the Pennington County Fair in Thief River Falls, Minnesota which begins July 20th and runs through the week-end.
I think the best way to end this column is with a phrase that not only frames healing for the soldier but also challenges them to gain control of his/her life; “what happened before was beyond your control…what happens next is up to you.”