Carla Walters joined the United States Army in 1988 and served 14 years. She completed two tours of duty — one in the Gulf War and one in Operation Iraqi Freedom. After she left the military, she struggled with PTSD.
“When you're in the military, you have a family, you have a team of people you know have your back,” Carla said. “In the civilian sector, I didn’t have that. For a lot of years, I struggled trying to find that sense of belonging, that sense of team. I didn't have people around me who really cared and understood what I was going through.”
For the men and women who have served, exposure to combat or life-threatening experiences are types of traumatic events that can cause posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In fact, the number of veterans with PTSD ranges from 11%-30%.
Research suggests PTSD may lead to other health issues including anxiety and depression, cardiovascular disease, poor physical health or alcohol and substance abuse.
To help support veterans, like Carla, suffering from PTSD or combat-related stress issues, the Big Red Barn Retreat (BRBR) in South Carolina received a UnitedHealthcare grant to expand its programming. The nonprofit aims to help members of the military in need of healing find peace.
The grant supports the organization’s Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Healing Heroes) program – designed to facilitate post-traumatic growth for combat veterans and first responders.
Over the course of seven days, they stay at the retreat and are introduced to different wellness practices such as art and music therapy, equine-assisted therapy and peer-to-peer mentoring.
“The Warrior PATHH program is designed to be able to help the individual warrior find a better version of themselves,” said Lamont Christian, a U.S. Army Veteran and the director of the Warrior PATHH program.
“As long as I have breath in me, I will continue this path,” Carla said. “I will walk this path narrowly, knowing there are so many out there who need this. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. I found my purpose.”