The last of the six events for the Healing Vets Weekend kicked off with Veterans leading the way. Stoeckert, James and Adams, a great local band with exquisite harmonies and a comfortable cohesive sound, is composed of two Veterans. They gladly played for two hours without compensation to help benefit the HVW during the Ride for Rose Haven event.
Other organizations also participated supporting the Ride, the Veteran Outreach Fair, and don’t forget the Yoga! The giving was prevalent! Copper Canyon provided the yoga instruction and a chair masseuse for finishing riders without cost, while Acre Station Meat Farm provided the meat for the BBQ lunch during the Veteran Outreach Fair. In addition, Coca Cola provided all the drinks for the lunch, Food Lion gave a gift card to help purchase other food items, Carryout by Chrislyn made up a huge bowl of pasta salad, and local churches and the DAV Chapter #48 provided all of the refreshments and energy foods for the three bike ride rest stops and manned them all to support the riders.
And that was just for Saturday’s events.
Our partner Arts of the Pamlico and the Turnage Theatre provided space and resources for the Veteran art exhibit and the VET Talks without cost. Inner Banks Outfitters saved the day by providing the mobile support vehicle and bike mechanic that repaired multiple flats along the routes.
But just as important to what our partners provided along with all the other sponsors (the North Carolina Original 3%ers, North Carolina Works, Eastern Carolina Veteran Coalition) was the passion and dedication of all involved to not just contribute items or services, but to also contribute time and energy to make a difference in not just saying thank you for the service of our Veterans, but to thank them for their service by getting involved with Veteran issues.
The Healing Vet Weekend was full of listening and seeing Veterans express how they manage in their lives after service, pedaling with them and for them, doing downward dog next to them, spending time to understand the stories in their painting, sculpting and making masks to grasp what they might be trying to say, or feel about their service, their experiences, and their future.
And then there are the active military or Veterans that took part in Healing Vets to give back to their fellow Veterans, especially female Veterans, by being part of the solution as well as a part of the community.
Our two VET Talk speakers traveled from Washington, DC on their own dime, to speak on building resilience by talking about their own resilience. Rachel Breslin said she never had talked about all those challenging moments, situations and deployments where as a black female Commander leading 200 military Police in Iraq, there was no one around to confide in, to talk to and her presentation was the first time she had spoken about it ever, not even to her husband, a fellow Veteran. You knew what she talked about was only the tip of the iceberg to what she had experienced that she wasn’t ready to talk about.
Kimberly Elenberg, the MVP of the Healing Vets Weekend, contributed three pieces of art, spoke eloquently and passionately about how the DoD is trying to make personnel well and healthy as a way to build resilience. Through her art and in her talk, she expressed her own difficulty in processing her recent deployment to the southern U.S. border to help care for families being held in a detention center. Then on Saturday morning, Kimberly (pictured on the left) hopped on her bike and rode 30 miles as another expression of that community building. Veterans Darlene Sullivan, now a program lead for the DoD’s sexual assault prevention office, and Michael Sullivan came from south of DC to ride and made sure they had a tour of Rose Haven before leaving, as did a number of others.
All of those who toured Rose Haven were able to see that the ride benefited more than just a contribution to a tag line, #SupportFemaleVeterans. They wanted to see, hear and walk through a developing Center where female Veterans, local Veterans and the surrounding neighborhoods and Washington residents would form a community created for healing and building resilience for those in need. The irony of building a community, often times, for whatever reason, is that those that give back are also the ones in need.
I would struggle to recap all of the weekend, or the feelings of being more than an observer, but a participant of a community of healing, so I won’t. We will post photos. When we get the VET Talks made into videos we will upload those to our YouTube channel.
The Veteran art exhibit runs through June 2nd at the Turnage, so please walk through and experience their expression. And finally, not the least by any means, local artist John Groesser whose son is a deployed Coast Guard member, not only agreed to, but wholeheartedly wanted to be our signature artist for the Weekend. He painted the evocative work “At the crack of dawn” that now hangs in the art exhibit. It will be sold through a silent auction ending June 2nd with all proceeds going to Rose Haven.
We are already planning the 3rd Annual Healing Vets Weekend, 2020. We grow and build community by offering opportunities to heal.
— Robert Sands