Terri Jones wanders mindlessly through a local grocery store, knowing she needs to eat, but nothing sounds good to her. As she walks down the cereal aisle, she is overcome with memories of her son, Jason. She recalls Jason as a small boy, eating a bowl of Lucky Charms, singing “I’m the marshmallow man,” a goofy song he made up about the cereal. Terri feels panic set in & the tears beginning to well up. She abandons her cart and runs through the store then the parking lot. She begins to weep after getting into her car. The memories of the son she lost to suicide, Army Specialist Jason Cooper, are too much for her to bear.
Shanette Booker awoke at dawn. As she prepared to start her day, she made a horrific discovery. Her husband, Andre, had shot & killed himself in their bedroom closet. Shanette gulped down the shock and ran to get her two young boys. She took them to friend’s home down the street. After dealing with the police, the coroner, and the funeral home, she checked into a hotel & broke down uncontrollably. The death of her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Andre Booker was overwhelming.
These are just a few of the thousands of stories of Americans who are left behind after their loved ones who are veterans, take their own lives. All of them would do anything to have their sons, daughters, husbands & wives, and fathers & mothers back.
Now, there is hope for veterans who are contemplating suicide. Especially for those who experienced traumatic events in combat.
Kevin Cameron spent almost 14 years in the U.S. Army and served in numerous combat deployments including Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, and the Balkans. Cameron was wounded in combat & received the Purple Heart. After being medically discharged, Cameron returned to the states. One day, he found his brother, also a veteran, with a gun in his mouth. His brother had been diagnosed with PTSD and needed a service dog. The costs for a service dog are highly prohibitive, though, running up to $50,000 with a four-year waitlist for those who need them. That’s when Cameron founded the AlphaK9 program which gets service dogs to veterans who need them for free.
Cameron has a Master’s Degree in Psychology, is a psychotherapist, and is considered a leader PTSD Service Dog training. He was California’s Veteran of the Year in 2016 and has 64 individual military leader commendations, including recognition from the Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff.
While he works with veterans at risk of suicide every day, Cameron realized that new prevention techniques were needed. To address those needs, Cameron has developed a mental health professional training and exposure-based therapy program identified as “Healing Our Heroes.”
Approximately 22 military veterans commit suicide a day. Many of these veterans had suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). That number does not take into account veterans who served in Kosovo, Bosnia, overseas military operations, national disasters, 9/11, the Vietnam era, or first-responder actions. Because of the shortage of clinicians at VA mental health facilities and because many mental health clinicians do not have a proper understanding of the trauma experienced by these vets, Cameron developed the “Healing Our Heroes” program to fill in the gap, and to provide training for mental health professionals so they can better treat veterans suffering from PTSD who are at risk of suicide.
The program will allow veterans & first-responders to be fully immersed in combat simulations, and to process traumatic experiences in the moment, and allow for therapists to immediately see psychological and cognitive reactions.
Therapists will undergo training to better understand what veterans are going through. Very importantly, the training program is approved for continuing education credits for mental health professionals seeking to obtain their credentials. The program overview states:
“Therapist and Mental Health providers will receive Exposure Therapy and Desensitization Therapy training utilizing simulated shoot/no-shoot scenarios giving them a glimpse into experiences that many of the veterans and first-responders may have experienced that led to elements of their traumas.
By experiencing simulated environments, a mental health professional can directly relate to their client experiencing environmental anxieties and traumas. Therapists will have interacted first hand with training protocols experienced by many veterans and first responders and will have a unique insight to understanding why the veteran/first responder responds to their environments in the manner they do.”
Family members will also be able to undergo training & combat simulation to better understand why their loved ones react the way they do in various situations:
“Utilizing simulator technologies, spouses and family members can be given a glimpse into the life experiences of their loved ones. This exposure will allow families to bridge the gap of understanding and beat down stigmas associated with trauma and PTSD to allow for healing to take place and to strengthen family bonds. Veterans and first responders will be able to share elements of their traumas without fear of rejection and gain acceptance from their family members. The utilization of the simulator will provide spouses and children an understanding into the mindset of the veteran or the first responder allowing the family to move beyond feelings of isolation and promote intimacy within the family dynamic and providing a new potential tool to strengthen family bonds.”
The simulator will be loaded with custom combat & first responder scenarios. Below is a short video of a first responder scenario.
Therapy staff and trainers will be approved and provided by Anchor Therapy Clinic. The Sacramento Gun Club will provide Certified Firearms Instructors and Range Safety Officers. The Sacramento Gun Club will provide simulator operation space and certified operators.
The company that makes the simulator, TI Training, has generously offered to donate 1/3 of the cost so veterans can get the help they need. The cost for the full simulator package is $250,000, and Cameron & the Sacramento Gun Club only need to raise $104,000 at this point. That’s a small price to pay to save the lives of countless combat veterans & first responders who put their lives on the line for us, for our country, and our freedom.
Please consider making a donation today & help save a veteran’s life. This simulator program will be the first of its kind in the United States, and Cameron plans to see it expand nationwide after the first simulator is procured.
Checks can be made payable to:
Anchor Therapy Clinic
3050 Fite Cir; Suite 209; Sacramento, CA 95827
Anchor Therapy Clinic is a registered federal Non-Profit 501(c)(3) tax id: 83-2516226. All contributions to the program are tax-deductible.
For more information, email Anchor Therapy Clinic at [email protected], or call (916) 701-5197.