by peggy purser freeman | photos provided by vfr
In 2017 Harry Patterson, was searching for the right personnel to start a program in the Wichita Falls area similar to Colonel Chuck Howe’s National Veterans Wellness & Healing Center (NVWHC) in Angel Fire, New Mexico. The NVWHC treatment included both the veteran and their partner and had resulted in a much greater success rate than just treating the veteran suffering from PSTD.
“Brenda and I had a passion to bring Col. Howe’s program to minister to veterans and their families to the area,” Patterson explained. “I don’t call it PTSD because it’s not a disorder. Disorders, in my opinion, are a condition that can’t be corrected. With PTSS we can work together to get through it, and then we can help others.”
Patterson had visited Col. Howe’s program based on his theory that if there is to be healing of the veteran, and the family unit, the veteran’s partner must be treated also. “I believe the veteran’s partner is impacted by the PTSD and needs treatment as well,” Howe explained. “The veteran’s PTSD has a negative impact on the marriage and the family.”
“I don’t call it PTSD because it’s not a disorder. Disorders, in my opinion, are a condition that can’t be corrected. With PTSS we can work together to get through it, and then we can help others.” - Harry Patterson
Senior Pastor Frank Briggs, of Lighthouse Fellowship UMC of Fort Worth, had worked with Col. Howe to bring the NVWHC program to Texas in 2015. Harold (Bud) Hughes, Linda Jones, and David Jones, SMSgt, USAF Retired, from Lighthouse Fellowship traveled to Angel Fire, New Mexico, to observe the full NVWHC retreat.
David Jones shared his excitement about the retreat. “Linda and I were invited to sit in as participants to fill the vacancy of a couple that failed to show. By going through every aspect of the program as participants, we became very familiar with the program and worked with the NVWHC Participant Coordinators, Rick and Cindy Sprott, to begin a similar program in Texas.” Since the inception of the Veterans Freedom Retreat (VFR) in 2016, the VFR in Texas has treated over 44 couples during seven retreats.
Bud Hughes, Linda Jones, David Jones (VFR), Markus Podell, Janice Podell (NVWHC), Harris Pink, & Harry Patterson of Wichita Falls.
“We have had over fourteen couples arrive at VFR without hope—ready to file for divorce,” Bud Hughes explained. “Instead they renewed their wedding vows, are enjoying their families and relations again. There have been at least seven participants that came with their suicide plans ready to complete if they didn’t gain any hope for change. Instead, they discarded their suicide plans and committed to continue the work given to them through the VFR retreat and admitted the Veterans Freedom Retreat program saved their lives.”
Bud Hughes, as the VFR Board President, along with Linda and David Jones, as the Participant Coordinators, work diligently to gather participants and obtain funding to conduct more retreats. Col. Howe had NVWHC facilitators contact VFR and ask for a meeting in Wichita Falls to discuss the possibility of joining forces.
Veterans Freedom Retreat # 4 held in Wichita Falls, March 2018, at Coyote Ranch Resort.
“The VFR retreats are NOT a vacation for the participants. They work this full week of their life so they can escape the turmoil, anger, and stress of Post-Traumatic Stress caused.”
- David Jones
In October of 2017,the dream for a VFR in Wichita Falls became a reality when Bud, Linda, and David conducted a combined Veterans Freedom Retreat/ NVWHC program in the Wichita Falls area. “We met with the Coyote Ranch Resort owner, Donna, and toured the resort. The modern cabins and amenities at Coyote Ranch Resort relax the guests and provide a great place to house the VFR/NVWHC retreats. VFR retreats run from one Sunday afternoon through the following Sunday morning.
Donna giving VFR Staff tour of cabins.
“Our participants experience freedom from the grip of PTSS,” David said, “They’re reintegrating back into the civilian life with a renewed purpose and mission to be the person they want to be and to have the relationships they want to have.” - David Jones
“The VFR retreats are NOT a vacation for the participants,” David said. “They work this full week of their life so they can escape the turmoil, anger, and stress of Post-Traumatic Stress caused by what happened to them and/or their partner in military or life situations. They can open up the wounds and deal with them while in a safe and controlled environment.”
Veterans Freedom Retreat participants experience an average 50–60 percent reduction in PTSS stress levels after attending one retreat. Follow-up counseling for all participants is provided through partnerships with other non-profit counseling service organizations.
VFR #7 classroom discussions and training at Coyote Ranch Resort, Wichita Falls, Texas, February 2019.
“Our participants experience freedom from the grip of PTSS,” David said, “They’re reintegrating back into the civilian life with a renewed purpose and mission to be the person they want to be and to have the relationships they want to have. Our caring facilitators are highly experienced in working with veterans. We are protective of our participants, working to ensure a safe and relaxing environment during the retreat. We offer a special thank you to NVWHC for their support and partnership in serving the veterans in Texas and New Mexico.”
Take Action to Attend
1. Go to www.VFR.vet
. Click on Get Started and select Download the Form.
2. Fill out the VFR Application, each person signs, adds a copy of their Form DD-214,
their Record of Military Service, and follow the instructions on page 4.
3. VFR Applicants will be notified and scheduled for the next retreat or the
one best for them.
• Veterans volunteer to assist the VFR staff at the beginning of each VFR retreat
and during the year as an Ambassador. Contact Us on the website.
• The local community may sign up to remind the participants that they are not
alone and not forgotten by holding US flags at the entrance of the chapel
for the opening ceremony.
Linda added, “We have a special donation category of giving a $22 donation to represent the number of veterans that take their own lives each day due to PTSS. More people are needed to make recurring gifts of $22 per month for at least one year to help our veterans and partners get the help they need through Veterans Freedom Retreat. It works!” †