WATERTOWN — The Mission 22 program has 3,500 volunteer ambassadors across the country made up of veterans and civilians working together to bring wellness to veterans.

Mission 22, which was started by three veterans after one of their friends died by suicide, began as a mission to join together civilians and veterans and raise awareness around veterans who face Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury or suicide.

It has since turned into a much larger organization that brings long-term treatment plans and support to veterans. A lot of their mission is to mend what sometimes is a broken communication between civilians and veterans, from what they come home from deployment with to why they would join the military in the first place. There’s a stigma that soldiers enlist just to carry a weapon without rules, but for Karah Shaffer, who works with Mission 22, that couldn’t be further from the truth. She has many friends and family members who served and their reason was never to have a license to kill. Sometimes it’s to get an education or simply money for their families.

“When you start thinking of the perspective of why someone would join and human needs and goals for the future, you start to understand that it’s not a very monolithic culture,” she said. “And you start to understand these people want to provide for themselves and their families.”

That’s what the Mission 22 community is built to do. Their 3,500 ambassadors are made up of veterans, those with connections to veterans and those without a connection to the service at all. Mission 22 is even investigating how the transference of stress or PTSD affects families when veterans come back home. They have an equine therapy program for children of veterans, local to their headquarters in Sisters, Ore., to address that exact situation. Their largest program, Recovery and Resiliency, puts cohorts of roughly 10 veterans together, and they work together with coaches and medical professionals to monitor their health from sleep to stress levels while learning mental tools that leverage traumatic experiences into skill sets that allow veterans to lead full lives.

“I think all we can do is be as loud as we can about offering what we have,” she said.

There are resources locally and nationally for veterans or otherwise that focus in part on mental health counseling, substance abuse and health care. A National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be called anytime at 800-273-8255.

The Veteran’s Assistance Center at 210 Court St., Suite 20 in Watertown can be reached at 315-782-5479. The VETS Peer to Peer Outreach Center is at 247 State St. and can be reached at 315-681-6772. A mobile crisis program that specializes in suicide prevention can be reached at 315-782-2327.

For a complete list and more info on counseling and healthcare, visit http://wdt.me/mhanysorgcontent.  

There are national organizations focusing on support and suicide prevention among veterans. Some include Hope For Warriors, Stop Soldier Suicide, K9s For Warriors, National Center for Equine Facilitated Therapy — which specializes in horse therapy — and The Mighty Oaks Foundation.

These organizations and more may be found here or by visiting the Mission 22 website and selecting Programs at the top.

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