By Evan Bleier —
In 2012, a beacon of light for veterans who are battling the black hole of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) began shining in Texas.
Located in Houston, Camp Hope caters exclusively to U.S. combat veterans. Its goal is to turn service men and women who are struggling into productive members of society.
All the support services offered at Camp Hope—interim housing, individual and group counseling sessions, job placement assistance and a multi-phase program that emphasizes faith and family—are designed specifically for veterans.
Most of the veterans who have been treated at the camp thus far fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Desert Storm and World War II vets have also made their way through Hope’s doors. The last few years have been the busiest in camp history. Over 50 veterans were treated in the first six months of 2014. Hope is already over-capacity and its waitlist is full, but the number of veterans helped by the camp is bound to increase moving forward.
The staff at Camp Hope is comprised of paid employees and volunteers, some of whom rotate 24-hour shifts because many problems associated with PTSD crop up at night. Hope’s director, Retired U.S. Army Captain David S. DeKerlegand served in the military for more than 20 years with tours in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia.
Since taking control of Hope in early 2014, DeKerlegand has made it his mission to maintain the program’s 80 percent success rate.
“When you see these guys when we get them, they don’t even resemble their military photos. They look like they’re in trouble,” DeKerlegand said. “Once we’re done they look completely different. Clean-cut…proud.”
During phase one of the program, distractions like the Internet and cellphones are taken away and participants go through physical training as part of a YMCA partnership. “It’s like basic training again,” DeKerlegand said. “You have to take all those distractions away and just focus on yourself.”
The second phase of the program emphasizes getting back to work. “These guys need a reason to get up in the morning, a reason to throw off that 50-pound blanket and get out,” DeKerlegand said. Once they do, “the sky is the limit.”
To learn more, please visit http://ptsdusa.org/camp-hope or call 877-717-7873