Best of Us Part III: Warrior Outreach Ranch: A Warrior’s Creation

While searching for the perfect wounded warrior support solutions, my travels connected me to Brigade Command Sgt. Maj. Samuel M. Rhodes Sr., United States Army (retired). His cell phone ring tone is “American Soldier” by Toby Keith (if that doesn’t make your eyes water with emotion, nothing will). Watery eyes inspired by memories triggered from a patriotic song often kept us on our toes in dangerous places far from home. Rhodes said that song was the first song he heard when returning from Iraq in 2006, and he went on to share that “every time I hear it, it makes me cry.” This writer believes a warrior’s tear can heal all. Rhodes’ military medals and awards would fill this entire column; therefore, I only mention he has been inducted into both the prestigious Audie Murphy club and the Sergeant Morales club, clearly exceptional examples of “The Best of Us.” He has authored two transformational military help books, “Changing the Military Culture of Silence” and “Breaking the Change of Stigma,” with the forward written by Gen. George W. Casey. Rhodes is recognized across the Army as the first senior leader to openly state he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Nearly 1 million U.S. veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between Oct. 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2013, have been diagnosed with PTSD, the most common mental health diagnosis (Allen, 2016). PTSD symptoms are divided into four potential identified groups (Furst, 2016): – Intrusion (tend to interrupt a conversation they are in or hear nearby) – Negative changes in cognition and mood (the light switch effect or night and day) – Changes in excitement, and higher or lower levels of reactivity – Avoidance of groups and people they know He is passionate that more can be done to support wounded warriors, which inspired him to create the Warrior Outreach Ranch in 2008. The mission is to continue to help veterans and their families. The new organization focuses on equestrian related activities. The warrior outreach ranch offers confidence building instruction through relaxing opportunities to interact with horses and enjoy family bonding (Rhodes, 2016). Studies have shown that equine therapy researchers reported improvements in PTSD symptoms after working with horses (Furst, 2016). This year alone, 1,400 families have visited the ranch. There is no cost to the families, and local hotels provide free rooms. The main focus is to help soldiers and families transition and adjust to life after traumatic occurrences. (http:// Rhodes is also a career college advocate. He has earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business from Trident University, Cypress, California; and an associate degree in general studies from Central Texas College, Killeen, Texas. He believes that, whatever you do in life, “You must strive to excel, keep things in perspective, keep your heart into it, and all is possible.” When he was 16 years old, his parents separated, and he moved out of the house. He worked at a grocery store and a bowling alley and still managed to graduate from high school. He found his way to the U.S. Army and rose from a private to brigade command sergeant major. There are many wonderful veterans help organizations around, including Hope for the Warriors, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), USO, Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, Wounded Warriors Family Support, Puppies Behind Bars, Homes for Our Troops, Disabled American Veterans (DAV) Charitable Service Trust, Thanks USA, Fisher House Foundation, Wounded Warrior Project, and others. Research these organizations, share them with a veteran in need, and become part of the veterans help solution. And remember — a warrior’s tear can heal all. References: Allen, John P., Ph.D., M.P.A., Crawford, E. F., PhD., & Kudler, H., M.D. (2016). Nature and treatment of comorbid alcohol problems and posttraumatic stress disorder among American military personnel and veterans. Alcohol Research, 38(1), E1-E8. Retrieved from docview/1762311746?accountid=28844. Furst, G. (2016). Helping war veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder: Incarcerated individuals' role in therapeutic animal programs. Journal of Psychosocial Nursing & Mental Health Services, 54(5), 49-57. doi:http:// Rhodes, Samuel M. "Warrior Outreach Ranch." Warrior Outreach — Warrior Outreach Ranch, (2016). Web. 13 June 2016. http://www.


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