As both a participant in and volunteer for The Patterson Foundation’s Veterans Legacy Summit in November, I anticipated the event with a sense of awe at the sheer scope of what had been planned. It was a first-of-its-kind event in many ways -- including an ambitious and unique mix of arts and entertainment, networking, and information sharing across many venues. It felt like an opportunity, for those willing to enter it with an open heart and mind, for exploration and learning.
Beyond my consulting work with The Patterson Foundation, I am involved with a global organization, The Center for Sustainable Change, which offers a remarkably effective approach for PTSD. Nate Moore, a veteran whose life was transformed by the work, envisioned a plan to offer his brother and sister veterans and their families the same opportunity he found for a renewed life. The Center, inspired by Nate’s vision and commitment, brought him together with experienced researchers and practitioners to develop a pilot project in Charlotte, NC. It occurred to me that the Veterans Legacy Summit would be a great place for us to learn and share and enhance the plan for our project. And so I invited my colleagues to the Summit, and five of us from around the country were able to come.
Sharing about a unique approach to PTSD
Many of us who are engaged in our project, which is called Coming Home to Peace, have worked with people struggling with memories for years. Our approach is so different from traditional, well-ensconced ideas about the source of memories, the nature of suffering and the means to alleviate it that we have had a difficult time breaking into the mainstream. We have few opportunities to interact as peers in traditional conferences devoted to veterans’ issues.
William F. Pettit, Jr. MD, a psychiatrist who is himself a veteran; Dave Nichols, the CEO of the Center for Sustainable Change, Lynanne Lawhead, the COO of the Center, Richard Conard MD, a retired Bradenton physician and long-time supporter of our work, and Nate joined me at the Summit. The Veterans Legacy Summit was an extraordinary setting for us not only to listen and learn to see ways to refine our program, but to make connections with organizations that might be interested in providing funding. It offered time and space to truly talk with people, many of whom were also introducing creative solutions to the problem of PTSD, and also eager to find colleagues and explore new pathways.
We took part in as many events as possible, including hosting an information table in the Legacy Zone at the Saturday event at Patriot Plaza. (We gave away thumb drives with lots of well-organized information about our work. You can access the information here.) We met as many people as we could. We found time to get together (rare, since we are scattered across the country and usually depend on e-mail and Skype) to advance our planning. We had a great time.
A legacy of connecting
But the proof is in the pudding. People who work together and enjoy each other’s company and are generally outgoing always have a good time at conferences. Would it matter in the long run? Did the Legacy Summit affect our work?
Yes it did. We are following up with people we met at the Summit whom we would never have met in any other way. Connections are being strengthened, and that offers us opportunities to reach still more people through the work of our new friends. We had a chance to review materials from and share ideas with people with the same dedication to ending suffering, and to identify additional resources to offer veterans we help. We expanded our vision, individually, for what is possible, just from hearing remarkable stories of how others got started with their projects. From what we learned, we revised our materials and even rewrote portions of our grant.
Lynanne summed it up: “I would like to let The Patterson Foundation know the Veterans Legacy Summit allowed us to see how we could improve our program. It was from several activities there that we found the missing pieces within Coming Home to Peace. We saw more clearly how to determine the impact we know it does have with Veterans, and it now has the additional strength of including support programs for families and the veterans to succeed in their lives after attending our program.""
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