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Veterans come together for special retreat



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Veterans Bryan Ashley-Selleck and Scott Hopkins help crack eggs for the frittata during the mindful eating class during Camp Resilience. (Photo by Erin Plummer) (click for larger version)
March 23, 2016
A group of wounded veterans had the chance to relax and bond during a weekend retreat in the Lakes Region. Seven veterans from across New England recently visited the area to take part in the latest Camp Resilience.

Camp Resilience is retreat sponsored by the Gilford-based Patriot Resilience Leadership Institute for veterans with physical and psychological wounds. Veterans took part in a series of activities meant to teach life skills and bond with other veterans in a relaxed setting.

The veterans came in from VA centers across the region. Their schedule included making Facebook pages at Lakes Region Community College, taking part in a yoga class, and cross country skiing, among an array of other activities. The veterans also took part in a series of workshops and discussions, including a Vision Workshop to define the life they would like to lead.

There were a number of outdoor events scheduled, but they were impacted by the poor weather and lack of snow.

On Friday afternoon, Elizabeth White, a nutritionist at Lakes Region General Hospital, taught the group about mindful eating and how to prepare some healthy dishes. The Laconia Elks Club let the group use their kitchen and function hall facilities for free.

After the week was done the participants did a feedback session telling the organizers what was good and what could be improved on in future sessions.

"What we see is when veterans get together, there's almost an immediate bond," said Don Morrissey, board member of the PRLI. "You're with your peers and your counterparts, they're your best source of moral support to get through PTSD or depression or whatever your issues may be."

Dana Osborne, state resiliency coordinator with the New Hampshire National Guard, said an activity like this is greatly beneficial to the veterans. This encourages open discussions in comfortable settings with people trying to join in a variety of different conversations.

"If you have fun with someone outside skiing, it's easier to talk to them," Osborne said.

Osborne said in the vision workshop they learned positive and optimistic thinking as well as better communication with loved ones.

"It's been really eyeopening," said Scott Hopkins of Rutland, Vermont.

Hopkins said he lives alone and this has been a great opportunity to spend time with other people.

Bryan Ashley-Selleck of Bomoseen, Vermont said an activity like this reinforces what they learned in the class. He said this has been teaching life skills they missed after being away from the service.

"It just reinforces the fact you're not alone," Ashley-Selleck said. "It reinforces a lot of camaraderie, that brotherhood-sisterhood we had in the service."

Chuck West of Winooski, Vt. said this was a great thing, and there should be more of them.

"Just being with like people with like problems, it's therapeutic," West said.

West said it's nice to see veterans being treated decently.

"They didn't do this for our brothers and sisters in Vietnam," West said.

The PLRI is managed by an all-volunteer board and it does not have any paid staff. Morrissey said the group has received much support from local organizations and civic groups.

"There's been some very generous retired military and civic groups in town that support us," Morrissey said.

The group is seeking public support to carry out their mission of helping veterans and donations are always welcome.

For more information, visit www.prli.us.

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