Filed Under Courage, Faith, Fishing Therapy, Healing, Healing Waters, Journey, Life, Love, Military, Peace, PTSD, Renewal, Rushing Wind, Tears of a Warrior, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on VINCE THE PRINCE
By Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D.
Once upon a time there was a very young boy who lived an incredibly difficult childhood. He was the oldest son of a family of five children – two younger sisters, one brother and a step brother. At eleven years old he became homeless, kicked out of his family by an abusive father. Drinking and beatings by his dad were endured on a regular basis. For five years he lived on the streets until he was old enough to join the army (1956-1965). Being of Navaho Indian decent, Vince the Prince was a fledgling warrior, and warriors always fight with perseverance and courage.
However, the trauma of his early childhood experiences followed him into the military. He was always in trouble, and believed he would get shot, knifed, or killed in prison. Life was pretty hopeless. Anger often consumed him, a normal coping mechanism many children of abuse use to mask their pain and unpredictable daily circumstances. But, Vince the Prince was a survivor, often called a “smart ass”. Being tough kept him alive, and being enraged kept him “feeling”.
How does a person ever survive such a life? According to Vince the Prince in 1970 he found faith in the spirit of the Lord, and this discovery saved him. Talking with him was pretty amazing as he could quote scriptures from the Bible better than most clergy. His personal commitment to the Lord handed him the hope that he lacked in his younger years and offered him a purpose in how he would live the rest of his life. In 1973 Vince was ordained as a street Evangelist. His parishioners were those confined to the jails and prisons in Chicago. He worked with the street people offering kindness, optimism, and faith. Having this new mission made him think of others before himself. He was no longer in the survivor mode, but in a vocation of serving those who, like him in his early years, were crushed by life experiences far beyond the control of a young boy. In 1983 he even completed his GED after having only a fifth grade education. Yep, pretty darn remarkable.
I asked him at the end of one of our conversations “What has been your greatest lesson?” His response, “No matter who or what you are, in God’s eyes you are precious.” And, ‘When all else fails turn to Jesus.”
Vince the Prince continues to work with young teens, many who are homeless like he was in his early years. Who better to understand their struggles, their fears, and their despair? Who better to provide a sense that no matter how dire your circumstances may seem there is always hope and that hope can lead to a miraculous future. Living life with purpose and a wicked sense of humor make Vince the Prince a very special human, indeed.
(I recently spent a week with Vince at a remote fishing camp in Canada called Rushing Wind. Tony and I were invited to work with veterans who have experienced the effects of combat and are finding ways to heal from the wounds of war.)
Listen peacefully to the wild call of the Loon.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It was a bright, warm, late June morning. Platte Valley Trout Unlimited and Project Healing Waters were collectivelyhosting their annual Wounded Warrior Event float trip. The two groups embarked on different sections of the river that Thursday. One group of veterans and their guides launched at Bennett Peak while a second group consisting of veterans from the Cheyenne VA Hospital departed from Treasure Island.
The beauty of the river, the challenge and fun trying to land a big trout, and observing the many creatures such as mink, deer, antelope and eagles made the morning special. Roughly an hour and a half into the float from Treasure Islandtragedy struck. A raft with two couples, who were floating on their own, hit a log jam broadside on a hazardous island point in the middle of the river. As their big raft flipped in the treacherous water, all four individuals went into the swift, cold water…only three were thrown clear of the massive log jam.The fourth rafter did not survive the river’s current even though great effort was made to rescue him from the tremendous force of the water.
Yet, throughout this tragedy there were many angels on the river. Angels that surrounded the rescuers, angels that surrounded the survivors to let them know they were not alone, angels that shuttled the traumatized rafters across the river to waiting medical personnel, angels that kept every veteran and their guides safe. Angels in the form of Army National Guard that found the body downstream and encompassed him in their arms letting the person’s spirit know that he was surrounded with love, respect, and comfort.
Yes, there were numerous angels on the river that morning. Angels, that in spite of the tragedy and sadness, provided many blessings. For you see, in the darkness there was still light, in moments of massive despair, hope arose, and in feelings of being alone there were wings surrounding all who needed strength and comfort.
Filed Under American Patriotism, Combat PTSD, Dogs, Fishing Therapy, Healing Waters, Life, Project Healing Waters, Tears of a Warrior, Veterans, War, Wounded Warriors | Comments Off on HEALING WATER – HEALING LIVES
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
So many questions… most unanswered … fill my mind. Questions such as – What is suffering? Why does it exist in our world? How do we lessen the feelings of hurt, pain, anger, and hopelessness? Very few responses are suitable for any one person, any one situation. Yet, it seems like nature is one of the few healers in our world of chaos and woundedness.
Last week we were privileged to be a part of a Healing Waters activity at the Blue Valley Ranch inKremmling,Colorado. Twenty four vets from FortCarson who are part of the FortCarson’s reintegration program and several who had been former members of the military took part in the program. For four days and nights Project Healing Waters Staff, along with community members and fishing guides volunteered their time and boats to wade fish theBlueRiverand float theColorado. Everyone strived to make the veteran’s activity a nurturing and healing experience.
Long before the adventure began, participants began learning about the art and craft of fly fishing. They learned the various life cycles of flies and many even took up fly tying which has proved to be a very important part of their life-long healing. Once the group arrived at the ranch they were fully equipped with expensive fly rods, fishing vests, hats, and other fly fishing necessities. Each veteran was accompanied by a personal guide to assist, coach, and make sure every need was addressed during the four days on the water. BlueValleyRanch is a good steward of the land and the staff works hard to ensure a high level of commitment to their warrior guests.
But here is the fundamental mission of Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing… it is not to merely provide a few lovely days in beautiful surroundings. The primary mission of Healing Waters is to give each wounded warrior an introduction to an activity and potential life experience that can help heal their mind, body and spirit… It is simply not enough to go away for a few days and fish. Staying in touch with the guides, roommates, or others who have touched their hearts is essential. The guides and Healing Waters partners are around to take the participants on future trips. They are available to talk, to go for coffee or a meal, and to merely be an extended part of their new family.
Yes, Healing Waters most definitely provides comfort and hope to any traumatized individual. However, it is people who heal people. It is communities that offer support and nurturing, and it is being with animals and beautiful surroundings in nature that help a wounded soul believe that even in a harsh world, there is still immense beauty waiting to be experienced.
Quite simply it is the unpretentious comfort of nature and humankind that brings one back to believing in the humanity that is still present even if one can’t immediately see or feel its presence.
So, go to the river to heal, and be sure to include your faithful dog companion to complete the experience.
Filed Under Aging, Dogs, Family, Fishing Therapy, Healing Waters, Journey, Life, Love, Peace, Pets, PTSD, Renewal, Service Dogs, Tears of a Warrior, Tears of Joy, Veterans | Comments Off on CHASE’S MEADOW
by Tony & Janet Seahorn
The human heart and mind are amazing in their capacity to experience intense sadness and abundant gratitude at the same time. That lump in the throat is still there as are the tears that cloud my eyes. Yet, the weight of the death of our wonderful Chase seems to be a bit lighter.
Earlier this week, we visited Chase’s most beloved mountain meadow, high on the Snowy Range in southern Wyoming. It is a beautiful, alpine meadow filled with wild flowers and a running brook. This is the place we chose to spread his ashes and place a stone memorial on a wooded ridge overlooking the peaceful valley below.
We promised to make this journey after the early summer snow melt and before the wildflowers were in full bloom.
His very essence now glides in the winds and rolls gently with the flowing water. White and yellow flowers line his final path. He is at peace, as are we. And younger brother Bailey still romps through the brightly colored grasses chasing after his cherished tennis ball – a reminder that joy is always present around and within our souls.
As we paid our final respects it seemed as if Chase was giving us his final message:
I am now in my meadow; my ashes white as angels’ wings float with the Wind and flow through the mountain streams to places I never ran in life.
Peace and beauty will always surround me with a green and white and purple blanket of sweet columbines.
This is where I was finally meant to be.
Therefore, honor me not with tears of sadness, but with hearts of joyfulness.
Remember me with stories and laughter.
And most of all know that as much as you loved me I loved you even more.
Black Forest Chase
April 23, 1999 – January 4, 2013
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
As an English major I had to read endless novels, poetry, and short stories from a huge number of authors across all countries and eras. One that was always fascinating for me and others has been the story of the Odyssey by the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy. Ithaka was the island home of Odysseus. Since this is the beginning of a New Year, thinking about your personal Odyssey may be quite interesting. What journeys stand out in your life? During your journeys what challenges did you face and meet? And most important, it is not the outcome of the experience that is important but the lesson(s) you learned from them and how those lessons impacted your life, hopefully for the better.
Like Odysseus, what are you searching for in your journey? Sometimes it is not what we seek out that enriches our life, but what unexpectedly appears during our travels.
As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.
Keep Ithaka always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you are destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.
Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.
Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,
you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean…
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
I saw God today. He appeared in many forms and shapes. Some were tall with crippled arms and legs. Some were young with broken hearts and tangled minds. One was weathered with a long, white-bearded, grizzly face. Amazing how God changes and morphs into such diverse appearances. Yet, each face had eyes that seemed to explain wisdom, pain, and hope.
As with such celestial beings, God tends to surround himself with legions of angels. They support, guide, and maintain an environment of light and joy. You see, God cannot do all the tasks he has to accomplish without some assistance.
Such was my experience with the second annual Wounded Warrior Event held in Saratoga,Wyoming. The faces of God traveled in metal chariots through high mountain ranges and wide fields of swaying hay. When the convoy arrived at their destination they were welcomed by the hosts of the Saratoga Resort. Once settled in rooms filled with cowboy furnishings, God was taken to the beautiful Upper Cedar Creek Ranch owned by Tom and Dixie Arthur. Horses and a special mule named Henry awaited His arrival ready to gently carry God to a pristine mountain lake where he could rest, fish, and replenish his mind, heart, and spirit. Angels continually encircled him, focused on quietly serving and ensuring His few hours on the mountain were peaceful and revitalizing.
The following morning God had one more opportunity to experience the splendor of hisWyoming landscape where He engaged in amazing fishing at Big Creek Ranch. New adventures lead by Mark Dunning facilitated hours of fun and entertainment. The day culminated in an evening barbecue with appreciative community members and the staff of the Saratoga Resort led by general manager, Susan Wallace. Each simply sought one last chance to say thank you. Thank you for your service. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for your courage.
Finally, God was sent on His way with a goodbye breakfast provided by the town’s American Legion Post.
Yes, I saw God today and I was blessed, both by his presence and his multitude of angels who continue to give so much to keep us safe and free. And once again I realized how even God within every individual needs time to rest, to replenish, to experience peace in order to persevere with the journey ahead. As you go through your hectic days, take time to see God in those who pass your way and be grateful for the divine in each being’s special presence.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
It is a slow Sunday afternoon. One of those undemanding days when there is not much pressing to do; this leaves some time to spend on whatever catches my fancy. Tony has taken his four-legged children on a short fishing trip, allowing me some REAL personal time. Since there are several decent movies showing, I decided to go to a film called The Way. It is the story about a father, Martin Sheen, who takes over a journey his dead son began. The task was walking a trail from France to a sacred place in Spain. Unfortunately, the son died in an accident his first day out. Of course, the deeper meaning of any such trek is a journey in finding oneself, whether that test is religious, career oriented, healing, or simply the trial to see if one can achieve such an arduous hike.
So I got to thinking while watching the movie, what is the Way of a Warrior? Is it a way of violence, death and suffering? Is it a way of courage and sacrifice? Is a warrior’s way a way of freedom? Perhaps a warrior’s true north is a way of Faith. Whatever the answer, one thing is certain; the way of a warrior is not easy and definitely not glamorous. More often than not, war makes it even more difficult for the warrior to find his or her way back to any kind of normality and trust of humanity. Finding the way back can be a lifetime journey for many past and present combatants.
One line in the film was pretty reflective, “Life is not about the career you choose but the life you’ve lived”. There can be no doubt that most warriors have lived a variety of lives in one short life time. They have lived the life of a warrior, a friend, a son, a father, a husband, a shattered soul, and a triumphant being. What then will be the rest of a life lived for a warrior? What will be his/her remaining Way?
It is my hope the remaining days of every warrior’s way will be softer, kinder and more peace filled. For those who have suffered years of sadness and remorse, may the new way be one of forgiveness and acceptance. During this Holiday Season and anticipation of a New Year, may every person find a special Way to give of themselves in some endeavor that makes a difference… adopt an animal from a shelter, smile and acknowledge that homeless person on the corner of your downtown street, or simply say a silent prayer for another soul in need of comfort.
During this season of reflection, find your own unique, individual Way to live with greater joy, less suffering, and fewer reminders of the demons that may have accompanied you home from combat. You and your family deserve a prosperous Way of living each and every one of your future days. Begin NOW!
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
There are few things in life that can take your mind off trouble more than a special day on a beautiful river. Last week the Platte Valley Trout Unlimited Chapter located in Saratoga, Wyoming had the opportunity to take a group of wounded veterans from the Cheyenne VA Medical Center on just such a trip. The excursion began with an amazing barbecue put on by members of the chapter and local volunteers. It seemed like almost everyone in the community wanted to contribute something from ice cream to napkins. Children from 4-H served food, helped clean up, and simply added their youthful energy to the evening.
The next morning began early with breakfast which proved there is nothing wrong with a warrior’s appetite. Then off to the river, which is a logistical bussle of shuttling boats, equipment and people to one of the river’s launch site. Vice-President and project coordinator of the Trout Unlimited Chapter, Steve Hays, was a bundle of nerves as he wanted to make sure every detail of this event went perfectly. Again, all the shuttle drivers, helpers, boats, and guides donated their time and efforts to making the fishing trip an amazing experience.
The guardian angels of fishing trips could not have arranged a more beautiful day for a float. The water was dazzling with light, birds seemed to have arranged their chorus of unique songs for entertainment, and even the fish were cooperative. Private angling lessons were given throughout the day which proved to be quite successful for most of the veterans. Two warriors demonstrated their angling abilities by catching ten or more fish. Since the North Platte River has been running at flood stage since mid-May, having the water and its inhabitants somewhat normal was a real gift.
Yet, the most significant result of the float trip was its therapeutic benefits to the wounded warriors. Most of the group had not known each other before the overnight trip. What they found from these precious, short twenty-four hours is recorded in their comments below:
- I can’t believe people care that much about us.
- I had no idea other veterans continue to struggle with PTSD; I thought I was just weak.
- I really needed this… it’s been a long time since I felt I could relax and feel safe.
- The whole experience has been a true blessing.
- This is what makes healing happen.
- That was one of the best days of my life.
Formal therapy can and is very helpful to many military individuals healing from the trauma of combat. But it is only one ingredient of the recipe. Being with others who have suffered similar wounds, knowing that others care and appreciate their sacrifices and experiencing the beauty and serenity of nature offers one a sense of peace, safety, and the faith that perhaps some divine presence may truly be keeping watch over them.
Yep, Fishing Therapy… the new, ground-breaking, effective line of defense against the scars of war.
by Janet J. Seahorn, Ph.D
Yikes! When we read about the Golden Years they don’t always seem so wonderful. Most of you have read that old saying, “aging is not for sissies”, and that cliché was written for the average person who has a lighter set of luggage to carry. For veterans and their families, many don’t carry bags of crap; they have a huge trunk of it, and it doesn’t seem to get lighter with time.
For almost two years I have resisted writing this particular blog. Why? Because it scares the #### out of me. I admit it; I am a sissy for growing old. Not because I am afraid of needing an expensive face lift, or having to wear fancy old people diapers. OK, those things do concern me, but they aren’t nearly as distressing as the more intrusive symptoms of age. Now, add the effects of living a lifetime suffering with PTSD or living with someone with PTSD and the image gets uglier. Even strong, rose colored glasses haven’t been able to calm my apprehension. Therefore, it is time I write what I know, and have known for a very long time. Aging with trauma is not for fragile minds or bodies.
Here are some facts that have been around for a long time regarding aging and PTSD.
- People with type 2 diabetes who also suffer with PTSD face a 36% higher risk of going blind or developing kidney disease (American Diabetes Association).
- Heart problems and high blood pressure are more common — DUH!
- Mood disorders such as depression are more prevalent if one has not sought help. Double Duh!
- Depression increases the risk of heart attack by 25% (VFW, March 2011)
- Alzheimer and/or dementia increases.
We have long known that PTSD affects the body and the brain, so it is not a big aha that any of these conditions gets worse with age since the body’s immune system is weakened and not as robust as when we are young. In giving all of these amusing statistics, I can’t stop without putting in some actions that will prolong the drought of age. Again, we all know these but sometimes do little to practice what know. Call it lack of well-power or procrastination, the two twins of sin.
- 1. Exercise everyday. This promotes blood flow to the brain which is pretty darn important for keeping the feeble thinking and crippled rascals at bay. It also increases muscle mass and strengthens bones keeping us from being in a wheel-chair instead of on a ski lift.
- 2. Watch what you eat… “What’s on your plate determines your fate.” Damn, I love a warm, gooey chocolate donut, a double scoop of ice cream, or a basket of salty French fires, and they seem to love me, my thighs and clotted arteries just as much.
- 3. Drink lots of water. It is the best purifier of the body and removes all that excess material, especially sodium that helps lower heart pressure.
- 4. Practice deep breathing and meditation. Lots of research shows how these actions promote a sense of well-being… only problem is my lack of concentration. Practice makes this better and really does improve the entire mind/body.
- 5. Add more fiber to your diet. J I don’t think I need to go into detail with this one, but fiber literally will help lighten our trunks of crap.
- 6. Get plenty of sleep. Nothing can take the place of rest for promoting good health.
- 7. At least I can still have my lattes and tea… at least four hours before bedtime.
- 8. Oh, and don’t forget laughter, it is the best of all exercises for our mind, our bodies, and our hearts.
Aging is inevitable, but aging with grace and good health will take courage, will-power, and making good personal choices.
by Janet J. Seahorn
A few weeks ago we had the rare opportunity for my family to get together and spend some quality time floating, fishing, and just chilling out in Wyoming.
During one of our chats, my brother, a Vietnam Navy vet, started talking about how hard it is to stay out of the “Sad Sack”, especially when his PTSD starts rearing it’s nasty head.
Although it is not realistic to expect that any of us can totally avoid jumping into this particular “sack”, it is wise to try and do something more inspiring than hanging out in the land of gloom.
Go for a walk, listen to music, write, or take up pottery or painting… or fishing. Anything that can help take your mind off of the misery.
One Vietnam vet I recently heard from talked about some of the projects he has done and continues to do for the children in Vietnam.
So far he has built one kindergarden in honor of his best friend who was killed in combat forty years ago. He has another one in process, and has helped do the fund raising and building of a library to honor another high school classmate killed during the same conflict. By giving something positive back to the world, he declares, allows him to keep his ghosts in line. Gosh, organizing, fund raising, and constructing these amazing projects is a pretty impressive way to stay out of the Sad Sack.
I must admit that some of our sibling conversations made me go into the “Jovial, Laughing Sack” which seemed to annoy the others in the car just a much as if I were in the Sad Sack.
Seems like when only one person in the group finds a subject humorous, others give you that disgusting look that says “stuff” the mirth. Dang, now I couldn’t open my Sad Sack and couldn’t stay in my Laughing Sack, which, by the way, made me burst into even more hilarity
At any rate, the whole point of this message is that we live in and wear many sacks throughout our days. Some we consciously choose, a few tackle us when we least expect them, throwing our emotions into chaos. The challenge is to get out of the bad stuff as quickly as possible.
The lesson is to trust our faith and strength, realizing that just as the crappy stuff sometimes engulfs us, the wonderful, comical, and joyful is waiting for us to return to the good stuff. In a recent blog, Ancient Wisdom, we wrote about being strong.
So here it is, being strong will not prevent you from somersaulting into the Sad Sack, however, being strong will be the only thing that will get you out into something better.
You have the power and strength to reduce the size of your sacks, whichever ones you choose. Good Luck.