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Program Helps Local Military Members, Families to Heal

by on May 12, 2017 10:54 AM

Andy Mylin didn't serve in the military, but he's seen first-hand the challenges combat veterans face when they return to civilian life.

There was his grandfather, a Silver Star Army veteran who was a prisoner of war during World War II. There were his uncles who served in Vietnam. And most recently, he befriended Paul Lansberry, who served in the Army and then enlisted in the Army Reserves.

"Paul went through some stuff that was just flat out hard and we started hanging out and saw some opportunities to get healthier," Mylin said. "He started looking around to see what’s out there to help veterans."

He discovered Reboot Combat Recovery, a national nonprofit support system that focuses on helping service members, and their families, work through post-traumatic stress to heal their minds and souls.

The program is led by volunteers, and Lansberry approached Mylin, a Boalsburg-based graphic designer, about leading the 12-week combat recovery course in the State College area.

Mylin looked back on his own experiences as a child, seeing his grandfather and his uncles who were loving "but noticing that something seemed kind of broken."

"Seeing that and Paul saying 'I think this is good. I think this will work and open doors. Let's see what will happen,' I just kind of jumped in not knowing what I was getting into," Mylin said. "But it’s been really cool. It’s been a really great opportunity."

The first course for the program in Centre County recently completed, with eight service members and their families graduating. They met weekly for about two hours per class at the Pleasant Gap Army Reserve Center.

Reboot blends clinical insight and faith-based support, and each class is topic-focused. Participants have group discussions, and have homework to do during the week.

It starts with a meal, where everyone discusses the past week. The course also provides child care and works with the whole family.

"Everything’s free, so it’s just the ability to come in and participate without burden," Mylin said.

Every combat veteran's story is different, Mylin said, but they face many of the same challenges. Some feel isolation and unable to communicate how they feel, even to those closest to them. There's anxiety and stress, depression, nightmares and the inability to sleep. Some turn to alcohol to self-medicate.

"When some of the experiences come, whether it's in combat or they saw something horrific during their lifetimes, that trauma is something substantial," Mylin said.

The course places an emphasis on dealing with "the root," and one of the first things they do is work with an illustration of a tree.

"We look at the fruit of the tree, and in this case, what is the fruit of my life creating now?" Mylin said. "Is it creating anger? Is there isolation? Is there depression? That’s a fruit. If I just pluck that fruit and deal with trying to take care of that fruit, that’s all the more that’s going to happen if I deal with the surface. We really want to dig to a root level."

Someone may be experiencing anxiety in a crowded place where they can't control the situation, Mylin explained. That may be the result of experiencing a situation they couldn't get out of. Sometimes that may have been a combat situation, he said, but other times the individual may have experience trauma early in life that is exacerbated by his or her combat experience.

Reboot aims to give military members and their families practical solutions for healing those non-physical injuries. It was founded in 2011 by Dr. Jenny Owens, an occupational therapist who was working at the Warrior Resiliency and Recovery Center at Ft. Campbell, Ky. and believed there was a need for an alternative to traditional mental health treatment options in dealing with combat trauma.

Today it has programs at more than 50 locations in 23 states and more than 1,600 graduates.

Mylin notes that the program is Christian-based, and ideas of faith are important, but that it is open to anyone regardless of their faith or if they believe in God. 

"Once we start looking into getting the soul rebooted we're asking questions like 'Is there a God and how does he play into all of this?'" Mylin explained.

For Mylin, leading the course was a deeply meaningful experience. During week seven, his grandfather, the World War II veteran, passed away.

"I gained a little more insight to some of his hurt and pain and the way he loved me as a child," Mylin said, "As a grandfather the way he invested in my life and just the way he functioned... A lot of that comes together when I start to dig into my story and see how his story overlaps. That was sobering and yet I feel like I know him a little better. The hard part is I can’t sit down and tell him that."

Mylin will lead the next 12-week Reboot course in Centre County, which is currently scheduled to begin on Sept. 11.

"We’re seeing success, at least from my eight guys, who say this is valuable," he said. "There’s hope here and this is getting better... I want from feeling like 'this is a good idea' to 'this is a great thing.' It’s worthwhile of my time and energy." 

For more information on Reboot Combat Recovery and to register for the next course, visit rebootrecovery.com



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at geoff.rushton@statecollege.com or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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