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Home Base Warrior Health and Fitness Program Helps Local Veterans Tackle the War Within

Home Base Warrior Health and Fitness Program Helps Local Veterans Tackle the War Within

by Armando Hernandez, SWFL Program Director, Home Base

On the battlefield service members are placed in unimaginable situations. Many returning veterans find solace in avoiding these traumatic memories which only exacerbates the intensity, frequency and symptoms of those memories over time. This creates a war within causing increased rates of mental illness and suicide in our service men and woman.

One local charity is looking to combat this symptom of war through evidence-based cognitive and behavioral therapies, complementary alternative medicine and peer to peer outreach and support.

Founded by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital in 2009, Home Base provides clinical care and support to veterans, service members, military families and families of the fallen. Home Base’s mission is to heal the invisible wounds of war – post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression and co-occurring substance use disorders – with world-class clinical care, wellness, education and research.

“We are only beginning to understand how to treat these issues,” states retired Army General Fred Franks, Jr.  “It is similar to what we did not know fifty years ago regarding battlefield amputation.” Franks, an amputee himself from wounds incurred during the Vietnam War, is the Honorary Director for Home Base SWFL, a local non-profit that leverages the vast cutting-edge research and expertise in sports medicine and clinical care of the parent program in Boston. This area was a natural second location choice given the Red Socks Spring Training in Fort Myers and the number of veterans in the area.

Home Base SWFL’s education, wellness and clinical care help empower veterans to take control of physical and mental health, provide tools to assist in managing stress and identify the triggers that would necessitate more intensive and complex treatment.

The SWFL Community Foundation grant will help 10 veterans access the supervised exercise, nutrition education, and stress and sleep management skills provided through the Warrior Health & Fitness program. Through philanthropic support and collaborations with Florida Gulf Coast University, Lee Health and the YMCA, these services are available at no cost.

Master Sergeant Fernando Moreau was a highly decorated, senior enlisted officer with the United States Army for more than 25 years before he retired in 2013. His transition to civilian life was anything but smooth. He stopped working out, struggled to keep a job and began to isolate.

Moreau said, “I had no self-esteem. I was a former shadow of myself.”

Moreau was suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety. He had recurring nightmares replaying the many times he and his brothers almost died. He turned to alcohol to cope. Before long, he was suicidal and homicidal and his wife and children lived in fear.

Moreau’s family connected him with a psychiatrist and counselor through the VA. The VA helped him secure a service dog and referred him to Home Base. This holistic combination of traditional and alternative services helped Moreau turn his life around.

He worked with his trainer and nutritionist to set health and fitness goals and establish healthy habits and they held him accountable for his results. He enjoyed the camaraderie of working out with like-minded people who had shared experiences. As he achieved milestones and built friendships with fellow veterans, he realized how much better he felt and noticed positive changes in his mood.

Moreau adds, “I am light years away from where I was. I no longer have defeating attitudes. I learned to love myself. I don’t know where I would be without Home Base. It changed my outlook on life.”

Moreau still has good and bad days, but now he has better coping strategies, a network of friends and a gym to turn to.

For more information, contact Home Base at (239) 887-5164, or visit the website: HomeBase.org

This summer, Florida Weekly has graciously allowed us, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, to spotlight the nonprofit organizations funded through the Foundation’s 2019 competitive grant cycle.  We have asked these grantees to share their stories. We are pleased to partner with these change-makers.

The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.8 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $78.2 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with a satellite office located in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com.

Southwest Florida Community Foundation
Southwest Florida Community Foundation

Our ambition is a more vibrant community that will continually address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties in Southwest Florida. We invite you to join our family and invest in the community with us!