A Veteran's Bridge to Civilian and Family Life
by Kati O'Hare
Sep 15, 2012 | 2933 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
THE COLORADO NATIONAL GUARD senior command team was in attendance during the open ceremony for the Warrior Resource Center, at 11 S. Park Ave., in Montrose on Sept. 11. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)
THE COLORADO NATIONAL GUARD senior command team was in attendance during the open ceremony for the Warrior Resource Center, at 11 S. Park Ave., in Montrose on Sept. 11. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)

MONTROSE – Sept. 11 was a day of remembrance across the country, but for Montrose and its area veterans, it also was a day of progress.

The Warrior Resource Center, at 11 S. Park Ave. in Montrose, officially opened on Sept. 11 — a "canteen" for service members to find veteran and community services, housing, counseling, job placement, volunteer, and recreational opportunities.

"We are about to open our doors to something very significant," said Melanie Kline, creator of Welcome Home Montrose, prior to Tuesday's ribbon cutting ceremony.

Welcome Home Montrose is a grassroots community initiative established nine months ago with the goal of creating a no barriers city that invites wounded troops to live in a place that will provided them an opportunity to thrive after their military service.

The resource center is a component of that mission.

As part of the opening ceremony, area organizations who assist veterans in rehabilitation, careers and other services, set up booths inside the center.

Among the resources was Dream Catcher Therapy Center, an Olathe facility that rescues and rehabilitates horses and empowers people with physical and mental health challenges through interaction with those horses.

"Horses are really good with people who've had traumatic experiences because they are very grounded," said Christy Dougless, a mental health therapist with the center. "People who've experienced trauma sometimes need help being present in their own bodies — horses can help pull them back in. They mirror emotions, and can provide us insight into something we might not be able to see."

Dream Catcher Therapy is just one of the resources for veterans within the community, and the center's goal is to connect veterans with such services.

Another example is Soldier's Heat - Warrior's Spirit, which helps alleviate combat stress through the martial art of Tai Chi Chuam, and is taught by former Green Beret Lee Burkins. Those classes start the second week of October.

Readjustment Counselor George Delahanty of the Grand Junction Veterans Center was in attendance Tuesday. He provides counseling in Montrose about once a week.

"I think the resource center is a great idea," he said. "I know when I got out of the military, no one told me where to go; how to find things I needed. This place can point them in the right direction so they don't flounder when they get out of the military."

Several people spoke at the opening ceremony, including Colorado National Guard Brig. Gen. Dana Capozzella.

"This is a community of people working together to take care of us," she said to a full parking lot outside the Warrior Resource Center. "It's not just a community, you make us feel like family."

Capozzella presented her military coins — a gesture of honor and thanks — to Kline, as well as to Jared Bolhuis, co-director of Welcome Home Montrose and creator of its Dream Job Program, and to the first Dream Job Program participants, marines Joshua Heck and Ed Lyons, and seaman Judi Boyce.

The Dream Job Program is another component of Welcome Home Montrose, and is housed in the resource center. It's mission is to provide veterans with their dream jobs through a six-month internship. The first participants will provide feedback to strengthen the program.

"It's an amazing concept," Boyce said about Welcome Home Montrose and Dream Jobs. "And the more people hear about it, the more people will get involved."

As a wounded warrior, Boyce said getting back into the workforce is much harder than people can imagine. Balancing therapy with a job is tough, and she said this program allows wounded vets, like herself, to get back on their feet without the fear of losing their job, and give them the confidence to once again be successful.

Another program represented at the center is VERTeam, which is a team of veterans who continue to serve and use their military training to help those in need at home during disasters.

Other services provided at the Warrior Resource Center include national and state veteran services, education and training, outdoor adaptive sports programs and recreation, wellness and alternative healing, financial management, spiritual and religious institutions, and spouse and family groups.

There is a computer lab for people to communicate with their families, to work on online programs and connect to these outside resources. And the center's main "canteen" area will be a "place to create community," Kline said.

The center is staffed completely by volunteers and supported through private contributions. People are encouraged to sign up to volunteer, as the center is in the midst of creating a database, based on interest and skills, of people to help with the many programs and events that are available to veterans, center Director Emily Smith said.

The center's hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.

"We owe the people in our military everything we can give them," businessman Richard Parr said.

Through the Welcome Home Montrose program and its resource center, Montrose hopes to serve as a model to how the country should treat its veterans, Kline said. Communities across the country are watching how Montrose's program does in hopes to initiate the national model, called Welcome Home Alliance for Veterans, into their areas.

More information on the program and center, as well as a volunteer application, can be found at welcomehomemontrose.org.

Kati O'Hare at kohare@watchnewspapers.com or Tweet @katiohare

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