A Testimony to the Remount Program
By: David Andrews, Major, USAF (Retired)
Asking for help is hard. Maybe the most difficult thing you can do. As military professionals, we are trained to be self-sufficient while maintaining a mission-first, team-first focus. Thus, we tend to dismiss and delay our personal needs in the name of the greater good. That is all good and well, often necessary on the battlefield or in the operational environment, but what about when you get wounded or become ill? What about when you start to transition into the civilian world? I get it. I’ve been there and know exactly how difficult it is to reach out for help when you’re disoriented, overwhelmed, and trying to adjust to a post-injury life. But you know what? Sometimes asking for help is the best thing you can do, and – speaking as a former non-commissioned officer and commissioned officer – it is what we would encourage our troops to do. For survivors of trauma, asking for help is a necessary part of learning how to cope, recover, and re-emerge from the traumatic event.
Here’s what I want you to know: asking for help is not a sign of weakness. Wounded Warriors and other trauma survivors with disabilities are not weak. Hear me: YOU ARE STRONG. WE ARE STRONG. Yes, “we.” You see, I am one of you: I am a combat wounded veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. I struggled with adjusting to my injuries – the ‘invisible wounds’ of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS). My wife told me that I was a changed man after each of my combat deployments, but I shrugged it off because I felt my duty was to be out forward. I ignored the signs and thought I could cowboy through my injuries by hiding them to Charlie Mike (continue the mission). What I became was a liability: to my troops, my family, and myself. Why am I telling you all of this? Because I want to set the table for all of the good things you’re going to see on the Remount Foundation website and in the equine assisted learning and therapy programs. I want you to know that the first step to healing and transitioning to a new, post-injury life is learning to ask for help. When I finally asked for help and went through the equine assisted learning program (yes, I am an alumnus), I started to learn about the new me: life with a permanent disability and new challenges and new perspectives. I discovered that disability does not mean inability. I learned that horses, a prey animal are able to stand in open areas and remain vigilant while not being overwhelmed with anxiety and hypervigilance. I found out that even with horrific PTS, I could start to open up again in a non-clinical setting. I learned to smile again, and I rediscovered my sense of humor. I relearned how to be a husband and father, with one of the best days of my life being able to go on a horseback ride with my family. You know what? You will see such a dramatic change is also possible for you when you go through the Remount Foundation programs. Like I said: YOU ARE STRONG. You are a survivor, you are tough, and you are resilient. Otherwise, you would not be reading this posting. What you may still have to learn is how to adjust to the new you; to the new perspective of the world, you have as a trauma survivor. The Remount Foundation exists to help you adapt to who you are now and get back into the saddle of life so that you can ride into the future as the new you, regardless of your injuries or illness. But it all starts with you making the decision to ask for help. We’re here waiting for you. Let’s ride.