"You are not your uniform, it does not define you as a man. What defines you is what's behind your rib cage. Your heart." - Jay Glazer
As I sit and write this I just realized that I've signed back up to be in uniform but that's a topic for another post. Today my post is about mental health awareness for veterans and athletes. Yesterday I had the honor of attending a weekly event that supports transitioning combat veterans and former NFL players come together in congregation to get into shape both physically and mentally. It took me 2 hours to get to the gym during peak traffic in LA and an hour to get back - it was well worth it.
I think the concept of therapy is interesting. I for one am not into therapy from someone I don't know or that knows me but that's just me. The weekly work out is high intensity and charged with emotional energy. Every man and woman attending are drenched in sweat and tears. All were wearing MVP shirts they earned and were a tribe working towards completing each exercise.
At the end of the workout session we replenished and sat in a circle of trust. The leadership including Jay Glazer and Nate Boyer were there to work out and to lead the way. It was therapy. What I call tribal therapy (without the campfire) with lots of sweat. One veteran who gave his testimonial shared about how up until a few weeks ago he had been homeless and MVP helped him get recognized for his combat experience at the Dodger stadium.
He continued by saying that the landlord who was about to decline his application for an apartment saw him at the game and was so touched that she offered to approve and discount his first months deposit. The stories rolled from there with another combat vet who had lost a combined total of over 70 of his deployed brothers over the last 10 years on the battlefield and off the battlefield due to suicide.
It's humbling (and heart filling) to be in the midst of grown men who stood to share and to be entrusted with another persons challenges. I believe that sweating and working hard together helps to relax your state of mind and allows you to open up free of judgement as well as receive. Every attendant becomes a member who then earns a shirt upon their 4th visit and a hat upon their 24 session.
You can't buy their shirts and gear - It is earned. Everyone is there to support each other and find a way through...together.
This program is outgrowing its facility and needs to be expanded into many other cities. If you are a combat vet needing some tribal therapy - come to West Hollywood on Wednesday nights at 7pm (Other locations are on their website here).
Author: Henri Duong, Sr Airman USAF (OEF), Single Dad, Tech Analyst By Day, Pew By Night, Advocate For Transitioning Veterans.