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Joyce Endee

Female vets bond in Camp Resilience

Army veteran Jean Labbe crosses one of the obstacles at Gunstock during Camp Resilience. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
September 30, 2015
Female veterans had the chance to bond and learn some important life and coping skills during a special retreat last week.

From Tuesday through Friday, a group of women did a number of fun and educational events in Gilford for Camp Resilience. Camp Resilience is a program of the Patriot Resilience Leadership Institute with the aim of providing life and coping skills to injured veterans and first responders.

This past retreat was specifically for female veterans. Participants did a series of activities over four days including kayaking on the Merrymeeting River, equine therapy at Lakes Region Riding Academy, Gunstock's Aerial Treetop Adventures, yoga and meditation, a cooking class, and numerous other activities.

The last day for the retreat was Friday, with a workshop on mindful eating and healthy cooking at the Elks Lodge.

PRLI chair Kurt Webber said the Easter Seals Veteran's program suggested having a retreat for women.

Kathy Bredbery and Sharon Hilson organized the retreat and Jayna Wenkenman was the facilitator. Wenkenman spoke with the participants through activities, speaking of cooperation, trust, and other important skills.

"It's been an experience and challenge them and figure out what they can do," Wenkenman said.

Wenkenmen said this is a way for the participants can come together and know they have something in common, including some common challenges.

"Women would have this common understanding," Wenkenman said.

Wenkenman said a lot of them have talked about not really having much communication and contact with other women. She said a lot of this is "building that social network of someone you can come to."

"For the most part, everyone's engaged and participating in the process," Wenkenman said.

On Thursday at Gunstock, participants put on gear and went across the Aerial Treetop Adventures Course.

One of the participants was Jean Labbe of Manchester, an Army veteran. She was the first female protocol driver, serving in Berlin. Labbe attended the retreat with her service dog Katy, who was the group mascot.

"It's been pretty good; they're keeping us really busy," Labbe said.

She said her favorite activity was the canoe trip on the first day.

Nora Rush of Wilton, an Army veteran, has been to a few different retreats. She said it has been nice to come out and spend time with other veterans.

"It's been fun; we've had a good time doing a lot of different things," Rush said.

She said one common experience is camaraderie, something that does not come easy as they have families to look after.

"It's really hard to make friends," Rush said.

She said she has made a number of friends through this retreat and looks forward to meeting up with them.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Varney Smith
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