By Kari Hurd
U.S. Army Veteran
In recent years, veterans have taken over Instagram and it has been amazing to watch that community unfold with a social media presence. I admit though, most veterans I follow are men. I know women veterans are leading in this space, too, but perhaps are not as amplified for one reason or another. Maybe it’s the ever-evolving race to find a presence in the algorithm.
Cue in Visionary Veterans (VV), a 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Florida, is in their first year of operation, but pack a powerful punch! I found this organization through a repost on Instagram. Two things resonated with me - the word “visionary” and their logo - which I would describe as an 80s-era synthetic rainbow. I could almost hear synthesized music in my head when I saw it. I think at the time they had less than 100 followers but I knew I had to reach out. It called to me.
I sent a message through Instagram not knowing their mission, but knowing I felt drawn to it. It read “This is so dope! I have plans to open a ‘retreat center’ nonprofit for veterans in a few years. I don’t know if you guys are in need of a social work degree but I’d love to be involved somehow. Or if you ever want to have a discussion about the broken system, I’d love to…”
I was referring to the healthcare system - which has its place, but in my humble opinion, falls short in both innovative and ancient alternative and complementary modalities for treatment for all types of dis-ease.
Veronika, founder of Visionary Veterans, Marine Corps veteran and former nurse, responded quickly with her phone number. We linked on a call and spent quite a bit of time discussing our experiences and our belief systems. The conversation had a fiery tempo, one full of passion, but it flowed like water. I felt energized speaking with her, thinking to myself - “yes! THIS is the type of movement I have been looking for!”
Later VV posted about a campout at The Hostel in the Forest, and I knew I had to attend. I was in an interesting situation, though. I would be only 6 months post-ACL reconstruction and was facing extreme hardship after losing my job due to my injury. All it took was one injury and losing my job to humble me, and make me realize the amount of healing I was in need of spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, etc. I was almost alone in this, and what I was in desperate need of was a healing community.
I made the defiant decision - I would dip into my funds for rent to attend. I did not care how I had to make it happen, I just knew I had to. I was lucky to receive a scholarship from a very kind donor for partial payment. And, as usual when I bet on myself, I figured out the rent situation.
I have dabbled in alternative and complementary modalities over the years post-service, after having garbled a slew of psychotropic medications like many others. Side note: I am not anti-psychotropics, and ethically could never discount any modality, if by choice. But I believe in the ethical responsibility of informed consent. What I saw missing in the Western healthcare system during my time as a social worker in the mental health arena were holistic approaches to treatment and dissemination of information on available options. Likewise, modalities were not accessible financially to many veterans who are often on a fixed income, myself included. Even having dabbled in energy work and with a 200-hour yoga teacher training under my belt, I would still consider myself a novice.
From the moment I received the schedule for the campout, I knew this would be powerful - a 4-day intensive with disciplined and versatile practitioners, enveloped in the dense forest, away from the busy world. A weekend chock full of energy work, spirit medicine, creative expression, breathwork, movement, and healing community and connection.
I called a few of my friends (other amazing women veterans I know), and shared my excitement. Before I even departed for the event, I was already envisioning returning to their next event with my closest friends.
Stay tuned for Part 2......