BATTLEGROUND – Over the weekend, Camp Liberty hosted Rockin’ America’s Heroes, a launch party for the Valkyrie Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the successful facilitation of the after-down range transition of veterans, first responders and their families.
President of the Valkyrie Initiative, Sheila L. Stephens, said, “At Valkyrie the mission is to help war fighters and first responders decompress from down-range. What we mean by that is, the brain rewires itself for dangerous situations and when you come home you’re still wired, you’re still hyper alert, hyper aware and that can lead to hypertension and all kinds of other problems. And it’s on a continuum from low to high. Very low you’re nervous, very high you’re having hallucinations.” Stephens, a former police officer and federal agent, teaches criminal justice at Jefferson State, Boston University and several other universities.
She continued, “So we call it all PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), but it’s not a disorder, it’s actually just the way the body works to protect the organisms. But as I said when it (the body) can wire itself, we can rewire it.”
That is what Valkyrie is all about. Rewiring military members and first responders who are struggling with adjusting back into civilian life. They rewire them with job training, recreational therapy, private investigation, farm therapy and mentorship, one vet to a vet, one officer to an officer. According to Stephens, mentoring can really save lives. The group is currently looking for property for sustainable resource education, including farm therapy, where participants grow their own food and teach others how to keep the old arts alive such as canning and taking care of animals. According to Stephens, taking care of dogs and horses is very therapeutic and even anything working in the land outdoors has been shown to alter the brain’s neuropathways.
The Valkyrie Initiative has brought together people from all over the nation who are the very best in their field to train these men and women. One of the board members is John Rea, anti-terrorism physical security branch head for the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). “He has got a lot to offer as far as teaching security and training in that type of area,” Stephens said.
Rusty Hall, CFO of the Valkyrie Initiative, explained his reason for working with the program. “What’s more important than helping someone else, especially when they put their life on the line to help us? To preserve that which we value as a patriot most, our freedom. I fly aircraft in World War II air shows to teach our kids and our grandkids that freedom isn’t freedom. That a precious price was paid for the freedom we enjoy today. This (Valkyrie initiative) is merely an extension of that of saying thank you to our first responders and our wounded warriors for the efforts that they made and the sacrifices that they made on our behalf so that we might have this freedom that we enjoy today.”
From zip lining to artists Dave Bray, Ryan Weaver, Dee Rock and phenomenal speakers like Rea and LD “Stoney” Stone, the sunny event at Camp Liberty had an atmosphere that was overwhelmingly patriotic and supportive of the flag and all those who fight for it. Weaver, a former black hawk helicopter pilot, sang the national anthem and did not leave a dry eye in the place. Rock, a former police officer, sang some classics with undying patriotic enthusiasm.
Joseph Land, owner of Camp Liberty said, “The Valkyrie initiative is designed to help serve America’s war fighters and first responders. Men and women who have worn boots that will go toward danger not away from it. So it is a good match for who we (Camp Liberty) are. They’re doing good things for brothers and sisters who wore a uniform. Camp Liberty, what’s more patriotic than Camp Liberty here in Battleground, Alabama? So it was a great match, I donated the facility for the day so no one is making any money doing this, it’s just a kickoff for their organization. It’s a way to celebrate the service they are giving to men and women throughout the country. Plus, it’s a way to let people know we exist here in Battleground.”
Learn more about The Valkyrie Initiative at http://www.thevalkyrieinitiative.org/.
For more information about Camp Liberty, visit http://www.camp-liberty.com/.
Camp Liberty is located at 15179 Alabama Highway 157 in Battleground.
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