New program for returning war veterans

A loud noise may send them scurrying to find the protection of a wall, a door or the underside of a desk. Once it becomes a part of the body’s cellular memory, it is difficult to turn off hyper-vigilance.

A loud noise may send them scurrying to find the protection of a wall, a door or the underside of a desk. Once it becomes a part of the body’s cellular memory, it is difficult to turn off hyper-vigilance.

by Betty Merritt — 

They were on constant vigil, checking each quadrant of the landscape. Emerging from armored vehicles, they inspected each window and door for enemies and braced themselves for combat. At night, they half-slept; the sounds of exploding IEDs (improvised explosive devices) infiltrated their dreams.

Now that they are back home, where everyone is “normal,” they continue to check their yards, windows and doors. A loud noise may send them scurrying to find the protection of a wall, a door or the underside of a desk. Once it becomes a part of the body’s cellular memory, it is difficult to turn off hyper-vigilance.

Fortunately, the Merritt Center recognized the need to provide a safe space for decompression time before soldiers’ reentry into the non-combat world, and created a welcome home program for permanently returning members of the National Guard/Reserve. The program is a six-week retreat for returning combat vets.

The first weekend will include a “Welcome Home Warrior” ceremony followed by a laying down of the weapons of war and picking up the Shield of Life. After each weekend, the vet will return home to complete some integration exercises. The next three weekends will include group work, productive labor work and creative processing, including the use of EMDR (eye movement and desensitization and reprocessing) and bodywork. The highlight of the fifth weekend will be a sweat lodge ceremony to release and purge the toxins of war. The final weekend will be a celebration with the veteran’s family.

After the program’s end, ideally the vet will be able to resume his/her life as an empowered and renewed human being.

 

Betty Merritt made her dream come true in 1987. She founded The Merritt Center, a non-profit organization dedicated to renewal and empowerment education via classes, workshops and experiential programs. 928-474-4268 or bettyandal@cybertrails.com.

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 25, Number 1, February/March 2006.

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