Press-Republican

April 21, 2013

Warriors welcome in Lake Placid

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — LAKE PLACID — In battle, warriors don’t often retreat.

But in coming home, retreat means something wholly different.

Homeward Bound Adirondacks provided respite to more than 300 soldiers and their families at a recent welcome weekend in Lake Placid.

Family events encompassed art, music, storytelling, a campfire and hiking, while evening child care gave soldiers and their spouses time to go out on the town.

TIME TOGETHER

Jesse Colby, a soldier with the Transition Unit of the 385th Mountain Division at Fort Drum, spent part of that Saturday afternoon making masks with his wife, Bryn, and their three children, Brady, 5, Charlotte, 3, and even little Griffin, 5 months old.

“We love it,” Mr. Colby said of the weekend mountain get-away.

Brady smiled as he held up the face mask he had made while his dad brushed on the last few touches of paint.

“As a family, we love the way they organized this weekend,” Mr. Colby said. “They made it affordable, and to get out, especially in the spring, is great.”

Mr. Brady has worked as a military air-traffic controller at stations around the world.  He is looking now toward his next steps in civilian life.

With three small children, Mrs. Brady said, the weekend retreat was a welcome break from the daily routine.

“I really appreciate it, especially because of the budget cuts,” she said.

“The Army trimmed their family retreat spending, and that was always a neat time and a great thing for us as a family. When we heard about this, we immediately wanted to come.

“Tonight,” she added with anticipation, “I’m going out to dinner with my husband and my friends, and I won’t have to plan dinner for the children or share my plate!”

HUNDREDS ATTEND

The weekend event was provided through a grant to Homeward Bound Adirondacks by High Peaks Resort.

Adrien Vlach is the business manager here for Homeward Bound, a nonprofit veterans outreach organization designed to support reintegration and military family well-being.

“Of the 302 total participants, 80 are children,” he said of the Lake Placid guest list.

“People are overwhelmed. They have been really happy to find this is a family-friendly event, and they have been really pleased with the facilities.”

LOCAL CONTRIBUTIONS

The grant provided 133 rooms in a project that sought answers from area nonprofits: What would you do with the weekend?

“It’s actually about these wonderful organizations taking care of our returning soldiers,” High Peaks General Manager Bob Trotter explained, standing in the lobby as military guests moved from one workshop to another.

“They are taking care of our returning soldiers and their families, who we hope feel more relaxed and rejuvenated when they leave here.

“We were stoked about holding this event at High Peaks,” he added.

“It’s our own small way to say thank you — thank you for putting themselves in harm’s way day in and day out.”

SPECIAL SESSIONS

Terry Moore, a veteran of Iraq and Desert Shield, headed back to his hotel suite with a new mask, finished in details of black and white.

Moore, who now works with the Albany Housing Coalition, gave the event a thumb’s up and a big smile.

“I’m having a blast,” he said.

There was a soldiers’ movie night at the Palace Theatre, morning yoga and, a local favorite, walks around Mirror Lake.

A children’s art room kept the youngsters busy, with lunch provided by the Lake Placid American Legion.

Creative Healing Connections, a local consortium of artists who bring healing workshops to life, planned drumming, writing, storytelling and mask-making sessions.

Short Adirondack hikes and a campfire at the Adirondack Mountain Club Loj were blended into the weekend schedule, along with Social Resiliency Model workshops prepared to help soldiers cope with the stress of both war and re-entry to everyday life at home.

PTSD TRAINING

Retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Dr. Loree Sutton and Dr. Laurie Lietch led a three-hour session designed to foster self-regulation in reintegration training, based on their work with post-traumatic-stress disorders.

Sutton and Lietch said their workshops allow soldiers, veterans and family members a chance to reflect on the brain chemistry programmed by the trauma and distance of war.

“For people who have had distress and trauma in their lives, sometimes living in their bodies is painful,” Sutton explained of their neuro-motor-response training.

“Our approach allows people to learn to pay attention to sensation patterns that are at least neutral, so they can shift away from pain — and transform it.

“We teach a method of sensory tracking that shows how sensations are the language of the nervous system.”

SELF-CARE SKILLS

The method developed by Lietch and Sutton resets the neuro-motor circuit breaker put on high alert by war and adrenaline.

“You can’t talk that away; you can’t medicate it away,” Sutton said.

“In our model, self-regulation forms the foundation. Without the mind-body piece, sometimes the healing stalls,” Lietch said.

“These are self-care skills and skills people can use with each other,” Sutton added.

Email Kim Smith Dedam: kdedam@pressrepublican.com

TO LEARN MORE Relaxation from art, hiking and the gifts of resilience are aspects being built into the Homeward Bound retreat process. The next event, scheduled for April 26, 27 and 28, is an Equine Retreat in Westport. To learn more about upcoming healing retreats for veterans, soldiers and their families, contact program coordinator Jordanna Mallach at 378-8089 or go to: homewardboundadirondacks.org.