As a military writer and editor of magazine articles and books, what an honor and privilege to interview those who have served or are currently serving. I’m from a military family and never tire of the stories told by our nation’s best. Following is a story showing how our communities can support veterans and active-duty military members. God bless them all.
Healing Invisible Wounds
During this giving season and year round, our community impacts the lives veterans
Article by Melanie Saxton
Photography by Chris Spicks
Originally published in The Woodlands City Lifestyle
Every combat veteran has a backstory that most of us cannot imagine. As our troops return home, the recovery process can be complex. For some families, the heartwarming homecomings on social media may be far different from reality. Some wounds are unseen and require high-quality care for those suffering from trauma and post-traumatic stress.
Hope and healing are available thanks to the PTSD Foundation of America and its residential center Camp Hope in Houston. The organization is a wonderful example of giving back to those who have given of themselves so selflessly.
Open Arms, Open Hearts
David Maulsby, an ordained minister and executive director of the PTSD Foundation, began reaching out to homeless veterans on the streets of Houston in 2009. This evolved into the PTSD Foundation, which offers no-cost counseling and a whole-person faith-based approach for those seeking help. Job placement, coordination with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs, transportation to and from appointments, and peer support are offered.
Camp Hope opened in 2012 for veterans with PTSD and their families. The campus serves the most vulnerable and is the last resort for those who have lost family, jobs, and everything. Veterans live six months to a year in 94 residences, with 61% identifying as homeless and 86% admitting to drug addiction. The program encompasses four intensive phases in a peer-to-peer format with certified combat trauma mentors and civilian pastoral staff.
The mentors have faced similar experiences and trauma and understand the difficulties of transitioning back to civilian life. The curriculum includes behavior modification, parenting, relationships, and family reintegration classes.
There is no other location like it in the United States, and to date, more than 1,348 veterans have graduated.
Many times, homelessness is a result of PTSD, although Camp Hope is not a homeless shelter. It’s a safe space in which to experience healing when other programs are not enough. The criteria for applicants are having served in a combat theater and wanting to change for the better.
On Board with the Mission
Many are stepping up to help. Michael Berry, the “Czar of Talk Radio,” has served as spokesman since 2014. He credits the generous support of individual donors, volunteers, organizations, and local businesses for making this lifesaving work possible.
“I’m constantly amazed by how many business owners and individuals pitch in to help Camp Hope save lives every single day.” ~ Michael Berry
“We’ve sent our best and brightest to war for the past twenty years,” says Berry. “Many didn’t make it home alive. Many more made it home with physical wounds, and far more than that came home with emotional wounds. We owe it to these brave warriors to provide them a place and people to help them cope and survive. I’m constantly amazed by how many business owners and individuals pitch in to help Camp Hope save lives every single day. Places like The Woodlands have a higher density of people who care. They show it with donations of their time and treasure. It inspires me, but more importantly, it sustains these courageous veterans. As Winston Churchill famously said during the dark days of WWII, ‘So much have we done, so much have we left to do.’”
The Federal American Grill
Also known as the Federal Grill, this amazing restaurant is enthusiastically leading the way as a Camp Hope supporter. Dave Gomez, managing partner in The Woodlands, says, “It’s an honor to help take care of our veterans. Instead of participating in Restaurant Weeks this summer, we donated $5 for every two and three-course meal from our Camp Hope menu across four locations—Hedwig Village, Shepherd, Katy, and The Woodlands—and raised $40,000 in two months. People sat down and celebrated the opportunity. Some veterans arrived and thanked us profusely.”
The Federal Grill gives a 15% discount on menu items to veterans and first responders or 50% if they are in uniform, which is meaningful to Gomez because his father served as a firefighter for 37 years. The restaurant also donates $1 to Camp Hope for every drink purchased from their exclusive handpicked barrel of Old Forester Bourbon whisky, dubbed “The Relief Package,” and continues to grow due to customer loyalty. Event rooms are booking up for the holidays, and a Scottsdale location will be opening this month.
Some contributions come in surprising ways. In 2019, Scott Leeds of The Woodlands donated partial winnings when his horse, Fighting Seabee, won at Saratoga. Later, he bought another horse and named it Camp Hope!
Gringo’s Tex Mex throughout Houston and in The Woodlands raised easily over $2 million for Camp Hope, a spectacular and much-appreciated success. Texas Grand Ranch, an acreage community in New Waverly, has cheered on Camp Hope since 2015, when they hosted their Homesites Helping Heroes event. The United Methodist Church hosts the PTSD Foundation’s Warrior Group and Family Group meetings in The Woodlands. The Rotary Club of The Woodlands, and several others, have welcomed Maulsby as a guest speaker. Right Next Door Designs is a supporter, and Gallery Furniture has given shoutouts, as has Senator Ted Cruz. Local media, including Deborah Duncan and Grace White of KHOU 11 and Isiah Carey of Fox 26, have covered Camp Hope and the PTSD Foundation extensively. Brittany Jeffers of Click2Houston interviewed Maulsby in June during PTSD Awareness month, among many other outlets.
Ways to Get Involved
Volunteer opportunities abound, including refreshing Camp Hope’s flower beds, cleaning kitchens, working in storage units, and dropping off groceries. You can also become a breakfast, lunch, or dinner sponsor.
If you can’t help physically, smile.amazon.com donates 0.5% of your eligible purchases when you select the PTSD Foundation of America as your charity of choice.
Following and sharing on social media is also very helpful—ptsdusa on YouTube and Twitter, PTSD Foundation of America on Facebook and Instagram, and Road to Hope Radio at iheart.com and podcasts.apple.com.
You can also enter or sponsor a competition team at Camp Hope’s Annual BBQ Cook-Off on November 11–12, at the Waller County Fairgrounds. This includes a private concert with Mark Chesnutt, and his son Casey Chestnut (who served five years in the Marines) will also be performing. Registration ends November 7.
Onward to the Future
Older veterans also benefit at Camp Hope. “A Vietnam vet came in May 2020 from Atlanta. It took him a year to go through the program after five decades of addiction and destroying relationships,” says Maulsby. “The point is, we left Afghanistan last year, and some of our Afghanistan veterans won’t get help for five decades. So our foundation must remain strong to assist all veterans well into the future.”
Together, we can help Camp Hope achieve future plans of growing to a 120-bed capacity and opening a second campus. Learn more at ptsdusa.org.
Additional PTSD Resources
• Operation Red Wings (formerly the Lone Survivor Foundation) | orwfoundation.org — Provides veterans and their families with a path to healing from their invisible wounds.
• Nux4Life Foundation | nux4life.org — Provides outdoor activities and Gold Star Fathers outings, and hosts golf tournaments in honor of Corporal Claudio Patino to benefit organizations such as the American Gold Star Mothers, USMC Scout Sniper Association, and Honoring Our Fallen
• Battle2BE | battle2be.org — A trauma transformation resource serving those who served country and community (and fundraises for Camp Hope).
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