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Monday, April 4, 2011 - 5:12am

Retreat To Help Military Families

A new initiative aims to help combat veterans transition to civilian life.

It will be based at Callaway Gardens near Columbus, and the idea is to bring service members and their families for recreation and counseling to help with the return from combat.

“We have 18 to 19 service members a day and vets killing themselves [and] almost twice that amount attempting to kill themselves. We have an all-time record of divorces in our nation within the military. Family life is shattered,” said retired Col. Mike Roberts, co-founder of the Callaway Homecoming Initiative. “So our intention is to try to help heal in a holistic way at Callaway Gardens and give them the time and the safety net that they require to defuse their battle mind and improve their lifestyle.”

Program leaders will also follow up with families and service members, and crisis management teams will be available statewide.

“A lot of veterans, when they come back, are rushed right back into jobs, rushed to do this, and we hear them saying, ‘We need more than just a day, we need more than a week. We need a period of time, maybe as much as 30 days, to reconnect as a family, and we can’t do that, and we’re hurting because of it,” said retired Brigadier Gen. John Owings, a chaplain and co-founder of the initiative with Roberts.

Owings said service members will be able to get marriage counseling or help coping with post-traumatic stress disorder or a battle injury.

He also said lots of combat veterans engage in risky behavior or get in fights to replace battlefield adrenaline. The program will use sports to help with that.

“Here is a good environment for you to learn how to do this collectively together and we can help monitor this and show you the skill sets you need to get your adrenaline, but to come down off of it too and to identify that there are bad, risky behavior patterns that are going to cost you your life and affect other people’s lives if you don’t get help,” Owings said.

Roberts says he hopes to begin rolling out the program this fall.

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