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Save A Warrior provides an alternative, warrior-led, holistic service that equips veterans, military personnel, police, firefighters and other first responders with a community of support and effective techniques to overcome the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideations. (Photos courtesy of Save A Warrior)

DAV funds new Save A Warrior’s facility to address suicide epidemic

Imagine being a soldier serving in the United States Army. You’re well-trained, well-equipped and ready to defend the nation. But after combat deployments and years of honorable service, an insidious enemy inside your own body—muscular dystrophy—forces you out on medical retirement.

In an instant, you have lost your health, your career and your sense of purpose.

Wheelchair-bound, alone, isolated and disconnected, you begin contemplating some of the worst, most devastating options—including ending your own life.

However, this true story has an ending that isn’t a tragic addition to the ever-growing list of veteran suicides plaguing our nation. That’s because the soldier found hope in a program called Save A Warrior. And now, thanks to a grant from the DAV Charitable Service Trust and a new partnership, many more veterans who feel lost will receive cutting-edge, lifesaving treatment.

Founded in 2012, Save A Warrior is a “warrior-led solution” committed to ending the staggering suicide rate plaguing our veterans, active-duty military and first responders. The organization uses Integrated Intensive Retreat (IIR) programs to provide counseling services to veterans for issues including mental health and wellness, suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress. Retreats combine best practices from neurobiology, psychology, biology, anthropology, mythology, ontology, psychiatry, sociology, equine therapy, art therapy, film study and a variety of other disciplines to create a transformative experience.

“We have shown more than 1,300 warriors what we call the ‘Hero’s Journey Home’ by offering alternative, holistic services that equip our heroes with a community of support and effective techniques to overcome the symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress and suicidal ideations,” said Adam Carr, Save A Warrior’s executive director. “Now, so many more veterans will be able to take this journey because of DAV’s critical support.”

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(From left) DAV’s National Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski and National Adjutant Marc Burgess join Save A Warrior’s Executive Director Adam Carr and President/Founder Jake Clark in ceremonially breaking ground on the new center. Bottom right: National Center of Excellence for Complex Post Traumatic Stress. (Courtesy of Keiser Design Group)

Late last year, the Trust announced a $1 million grant to fund the National Center of Excellence for Complex Post Traumatic Stress, sponsored by DAV at Save A Warrior’s new facility in Hillsboro, Ohio. Construction began for the center in April. When it opens in 2022, it will allow Save A Warrior to scale up its healing process for veterans who are struggling under the weight of suicidal ideation.

“We are honored to support the creation of this new facility and could not be more impressed with the work Save A Warrior has done to address veteran suicide and mental health,” said Trust President Richard Marbes. “We look forward to the day when we can look back on the tens of thousands of lives saved through this investment in a proven program.”

The team at Save A Warrior is partnering with DAV not only for financial assistance but also as a source of the guidance and wisdom that comes from 100 years of serving veterans.

“Save A Warrior feels such a strong connection with DAV, as it has always been their highest priority to go above and beyond in serving our nation’s veterans,” said Carr, a DAV member and combat veteran who served in the Army Special Forces in the early 2000s. “DAV has gone to bat time and time again for our veterans in Washington, D.C., to ensure we are afforded the protections, rights and life that we all deserve. It’s the ‘whatever it takes’ mentality that we identify with the most, as our team feels the same passion for our lifesaving mission.”

Carr said DAV’s core services, including benefits assistance and employment support, will be ingrained features in Save A Warrior’s recovery model.

“DAV will also serve as a powerful entity in our continuum of care, as so many veterans have had a tough time transitioning, still lack the resources and care they need, and could benefit from the multitude of opportunities DAV provides in the veteran space,” he said. “We are focused on our participants ultimately ending up working through recovery and going on to a rich, fulfilling life.”

As for the Army veteran who found Save A Warrior after his muscular dystrophy diagnosis and subsequent struggle against thoughts of suicide, Carr said the veteran’s doctors called his transformation a miracle.

“He credits Save A Warrior for not only saving his life but instilling a sense of hope in his heart. We have thousands of inspiring stories of veterans reaching the last house on the block and feeling like they have no place else to go,” Carr said. “This is where we meet them, and 80 hours is just enough time to hold up a mirror and evoke a powerful, novel, transformative experience—inspiring one to take a different path in life, the path to joy, love, empathy, compassion and community.

“And it’s a path many more veterans will walk thanks to support from DAV.”