By Lorraine Cancro, M.S.W., edited by Jim Luce.
New York, N.Y. In 2011, the filmmaker behind the movies Blue Velvet and Mulholland Drive organized for his foundation to donate $1 million to launch Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW) in Los Angeles, an initiative to help 10,000 veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other war-related illnesses. In 2011, Lynch donated $1 million to launch the organization to help veterans overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other war-related illnesses through Transcendental Meditation.
To that end, Lynch said Operation Warrior Wellness is working with military bases and military colleges, as well as veteran service organizations. The demand is enormous. As Clint Eastwood, a forty-year meditator, has said, “When you consider the anxieties of combat that our men and women of the Armed Forces endure, then it’s clear that TM is a great tool for them.”
On a Saturday night last month at Brooklyn’s historic Fort Hamilton, foreshadowing Michelle Obama’s comment in Charlotte, the David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness held a Gala to benefit military members and First Responders to 9/11. Speakers included U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm, OWW national co-chair and WWII fighter pilot Jerry Yellin, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, and OWW national co-chair and retired Chief Master Sergeant Ed Schloeman.
“What an honor to bring all our friends together to honor our veterans, first responders and Connie Stevens at a location where America's first veterans were produced during The Battle of Brooklyn,” CMS Ed Schloeman, Co-Chairman of Operation Warrior Wellness, said as he opened the evening’s festivities.
There is a great need to support all those who are fighting their “hidden wounds of war” –Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD). The David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness is doing just that are doing that with the help of founders Jerry Yellin, WWII combat fighter pilot and his gala co-chair and friend, Vietnam Marine and retired CMS Ed Schloeman.
CMS Ed Schloeman of Operation Warrior Wellness accepts the Congressional Recognition Award from Congressman Michael Grimm at historic Fort Hamilton Army Garrison at the David Lynch Foundation event. Photo: DLF.
An inspiring highlight of the evening was the triumphant story of Luke Jensen, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who overcame a horrific struggle with PTSD through Transcendental Meditation. According to Jensen, “TM helped me relax right away, sleep better, and cope with anxiety to the point that I no longer needed anxiety medication.”
The gala also shed light on the severe and under-recognized issue of PTSD among police officers. Deborah Ortiz, event co-organizer and co-producer of the upcoming documentary Code Nine: Officer Needs Assistance, described her family's struggle with PTSD. “After retiring from a 22-year law-enforcement career, my husband began to suffer from the horrors of PTSD. I watched the man that once knew sink into a world of darkness and despair, she explained. According to Ms. Ortiz, the number-one killer of police officers is suicide.
Fortunately, Deborah could share a happy ending to her family's story: “TM has literally changed our lives. After four psychiatrists, two therapists, and thousands of dollars, my husband has actually, finally started to feel better.”
At the gala, public officials called for greater support of Operation Warrior Wellness. FDNY Commissioner Salvatore Cassano said, “After 9/11, we were wounded – both physically and psychologically. But, the psychological wounds were much harder to detect – and they’re still going on today. If you support the David Lynch Foundation, you can support the veterans and first responders in getting the help on the problems that you can’t see.”
U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm reinforced the Fire Commissioner’s words. “I want to thank you for supporting this incredible endeavor. It's not even that it's so cost-effective. It's that it's so effective: That this could change the lives and save the lives of so many of our heroes. If we really want to honor them and give back just a little, then we need your support,” the Congressman said.
“Symptoms of PTSD include anxiety, hypervigilance, exaggerated startle response, nightmares or flashbacks, insomnia, outbursts of anger and social withdrawal. Veterans with PTSD also exhibit evidence of hyperarousal, or exaggerated fight-or-flight response.”
“PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that often occurs in military personnel who have experienced or witnessed trauma,” said Norman Rosenthal, M.D., a Georgetown University Medical School psychiatrist and author of the New York Times bestseller Transcendence, Healing and Transformation through Transcendental Meditation.
Dr. Rosenthal recently completed a pilot study on the impact of TM on PTSD, which was published in the Military magazine. The research showed a 50% reduction in PTSD symptoms among meditating veterans. Other findings have shown that the TM technique:
Physical health. Reduces stress and stress-related illness and improves overall health and longevity.
Emotional health. Reduces anxiety and depression and increases contentment, integrity, and ability to resist peer pressure.
Social and family health. Increases tolerance and improves personal and family relationships.
Spiritual: Increases self-confidence, moral maturity, and self-actualization — allowing the soldier to deeply connect with his or her own internal compass as a guide throughout life
CNN anchor Candy Crowley, who is on the board of advisors of Operation Warrior Wellness, said: “The initial research offers so much hope: reduced anxiety, depression, hypervigilance, and insomnia, as well as reductions in substance abuse, violent behavior, and suicidal tendencies—better than many things being tried and at far less a cost.”
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