MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- Graduation often marks a new chapter in one's life, and sometimes to move forward, one must work to overcome one's past. A unique program in Milwaukee is helping veterans to get through some of the challenges presented by post-traumatic stress disorder, and create a meaningful life.
Chris McNulty is a graduate of "Healing Warrior Hearts" -- a program designed to help veterans deal with the effects of PTSD.
"We deployed to the first Gulf War, spent some time in the Sinai peacekeeping, some time in Bosnia peacekeeping, went to Iraq in 2008 for 15 months," McNulty said.
After 21 years as an active Army soldier, McNulty retired from the military in 2010. Though he left his uniform behind, the experience of war stayed with him.
"Everybody there was just telling me `hey, just forget about that. That`s the past. Forget about it. Just forget about everything that, you know' -- but how do you forget about it when you wake up with cold sweats at night and thinking you`re somewhere where you`re not? You`re in your bedroom and you`re re-experiencing things," McNulty said.
McNulty sought help, going through two other programs for veterans with PTSD.
Neither had a lasting effect.
"I turned to working almost 60, 70 hours a week-- and when I wasn`t working I was drinking," McNulty said.
A friend and fellow veteran convinced him to try one more group -- Healing Warrior Hearts.
"Healing Warrior Hearts has a different kind of connecting time, a different focus and we use a lot more art to get people to get in touch with their emotions because it allows them to express themselves without having to speak the words and then when they describe the art they end up telling their story," Patricia Clason said.
"Every participant`s process is different so it`s not like everybody`s doing the same thing whereas in the other types of treatment I`ve done, everybody does the same thing," McNulty said.
Clason began working with veterans in 1993. Her three keys to a successful retreat are: providing peer support, creating a safe environment and helping the veteran to tell his or her story.
"They feel that it`s so big that if they open it up, if they start talking about it, if they tell someone about it, they`re not going to be able to come back out of it," Clason said.
"If I wouldn`t have brought it out during Healing Warrior Hearts, I don`t think I ever would have brought it out," McNulty said.
Since graduating from the program, McNulty is going after a double major in psychology and environmental science.
If you'd like to help keep "Healing Warrior Hearts" free for veterans, you can attend its annual fundraiser on May 17th.
You'll find family friendly activities, live music, raffles, an auction and much more from 2:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. at American Legion Post 434 in Oak Creek.
CLICK HERE to learn much more about Healing Warrior Hearts.
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