A Partnership to Solve Addiction Issues in the Special Ops and General Military Community
- Domestic Violence.
- The feelings of loss of relevance.
These are just some of the struggles active and retired military special operators struggle with on a daily basis both in the battlefield and when they come home. As the war in Afghanistan and surrounding world stage trudges on, the chances of a veteran returning home with one or more of these troubling issues, has risen dramatically. For example, the suicide rate for active duty Special Operations has tripled in the last year and every day, over 20 veterans take their own lives. This has become an international heartbreaking epidemic.
Warrior2Warrior – Ms. Susan Ullman
This is a statistic Susan Ullman knows all too well. In 2014, after the tragic suicide of her husband Michael, Ms. Ullman founded the Warrioir2Warrior Foundation. Michael was an active duty Green Beret, one of America’s elite military operators, but he was also a part of a family and a friend to many. His loss was devastating.
Susan explains, “I have no doubt that alcohol played a role in Michael’s death. I think that if that issue had been addressed more adequately, he might still be with us. And we now know that more and more of our special operators are struggling with addictions both on and off of the battlefield. It is a major contributor to these individual’s isolation, loneliness, feelings of loss of relevance, and eventual suicidal ideation. In light of these current trends, over the past 2 years, Warrior2Warrior sought out the best addiction-help professionals in the world to serve the veterans we currently work with everyday. Everywhere we looked, we kept hearing about St. Jude’s and their Freedom Model Program. My background is investigative work, and so I did some digging, and I was very impressed with their independently documented results and their non-12 step methods. Their model of empowerment rather than the more typical idea that people are powerless over drugs and alcohol, more accurately matches the credo of the special operators we work with. And so we flew to NY to see their retreat with our own eyes, and talked with their team first hand. We wanted to make sure that this was who we would refer our coveted military men and women should they be struggling with an addiction.”
Thomas Russell – 21 Year Veteran
Mr. Russell is a 21 year veteran Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 3. He is Warrior2Warrior’s Director of Programs and Development. He is also a highly decorated wounded combat veteran. While quick with wit and seemingly easy going, Tom also has that natural presence that comes with years of intense combat service. Tom is someone who understands the severe ramifications of heavy medications post-active duty as well as alcohol abuse, and he is also someone who moved past these addictions himself. Like Susan, Tom also wanted to bring on a partner organization that had a track record of success. Tom explained, “I wanted to talk with the team at Saint Jude’s about their Freedom Model for Addictions Non 12 Step curriculum eye to eye. Our special operators cannot go to a rehab where the idea is to ‘break them down – to build them back up again.’ That kind of approach is dangerous to a man or woman who already believes they are broken from their combat experiences abroad. When I spoke with Mark Scheeren, St. Jude’s Chairman and founder, you could instantly understand this was not a rehab per se. It was a place where people are helped with no judgments or shame tactics. It’s just the deinstitutionalized approach we were looking for. This is crucial to our combat vets who need a firm but understandable model that builds back their resiliency and confidence and helps them to get over the addiction hurdle so we can then work on the other life issues here at Warrior2Warrior. It’s been a great partnership so far and we are excited to work with them.”
Mark Scheeren – Chairman Saint Jude Retreat and The Freedom Model Program
Mr. Scheeren was eager to work with Warrior2Warrior because of the foundation’s approach to resilience through peer to peer mentorship and the fact that they work in a very personalized approach. “ W2W works similar to Saint Jude Retreats. We don’t try to be everything to everybody, that tends to water down effectiveness, especially in addiction services. At Saint Jude’s, we perfected our approach to addiction over the course of 30 years of research. When Susan and Tom met with me and my team, I saw that same willingness to remain focused on what works – they were willing to seek the best help for their vets no matter where that help might come from. They are the hub, and they care. I respected them immediately, and we partnered with them right away. We have helped hundreds of our military heroes get and stay sober over the course of the last 30 years, and we look forward to helping thousands more in this new partnership.”