War produces a bond like no other—one that is hard to imitate afterwards. Shared hardships, common experiences, and the necessity of trust combine in a life-or-death environment to forge friendships that make other relationships seem dull.
At Freedom Alliance, we’ve found that camaraderie is one measure of success that can’t be ignored, and we work hard to put together small groups with the best chance of cohesion.
Just days after the new year, Freedom Alliance hosted an Offshore Experience for seven veterans who share the common experience of battle. The program combines offshore fishing with a series of structured group sessions developed with the help of psychotherapist and author Dr. Ed Tick. We invited combat veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, the invasion of Panama, and Vietnam.
The men were lodged in several condos donated by our supporters at Los Sueños. This world-class, luxury resort and marina is located on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica. Visionary and Los Sueños CEO, William Royster, has created an environment of calm and beauty that speaks to the soul. Special thanks to Gerald & Virginia Lindholm, David Simon, Steve Ashinoff, and Sharon & Charles Miller for donating their condos.
“It is a privilege to have the opportunity to share this place that we hold close to our hearts with you,” said condo owners Sharon & Charles Miller of Texas. We held every group session in the comfort of their living room and balcony that overlooks the resort, where it is common for scarlet macaws to fly by in the mornings and evenings. “For us, this piece of paradise represents new birth and a connection with the beautiful gift of nature that God has given us all.”
And in this special place, we witnessed incredible connection and healing.
“A bond was formed, a camaraderie between folks who are able to acknowledge the pieces of themselves they see in others and their stories and experiences,” said Justin, a veteran who served on two deployments to Iraq.
Michael, who was wounded during his tour of duty in Vietnam said, “That I have a new group of vets to find comfort with through the good and trying times is very reassuring…a treasure beyond comprehension.”
On their first day in Costa Rica, the men were treated to a massage at the boutique jungle hotel Pumilio. It was a chance to relax and be tended to after their day of travel, when many experienced delays due to foul weather and a wave of the Omicron variant of COVID that waylaid the airlines.
We spent most of the rest of the day in our curriculum, discussing the framework of warriorhood using a model that was developed with Dr. Tick to help soldiers carry the burdens of war. These group sessions can be painful, as memories that have been locked away surface. But these are shared in the safety of the space we create, and it sure beats any clinical setting. We like to balance these heavy moments by following up with a couple days of offshore fishing!
Our first day offshore was donated by Wallis Higginbotham, owner of the Paul Mann yacht Grand Slam. Grand Slam is a 62-foot sport fishing yacht that competes at the Los Sueños Signature Triple Crown Tournament. The men enjoyed a day of superior fishing, catching two mahimahi and four blue marlin!
The next day, we split the group, with four vets riding with Grand Slam again and three riding with the 66-foot Spencer yacht Max Bet, courtesy of owners Matt & Kelly Weber. It was a phenomenal day with Charles, an Army veteran, achieving a personal “grand slam,” which means catching three types of billfish: a striped marlin, a blue marlin, and a sailfish.
Max Bet also caught a grand slam that day. There’s was a blue marlin, a striped marlin, three sailfish, and a mahi. Thank you to these owners and crews for making such an impact with our troops!
For their final day in Costa Rica, the troops were treated to a day of relaxing fun at Isla Tortuga on Costa Cat Cruises, courtesy of Jim Kitchell, a long-time supporter of our program. The men enjoyed snorkeling, swimming, and a hike around this lush and secluded island.
To conclude, we want to share the testimonies of our veterans:
“We may not have realized it until we got there,” said Justin, “but we all recognized it for what it was, and we understood how much we truly had missed having that type of deep, meaningful connection to another human being who had experienced what we had.”
“I highly recommend Freedom Alliance for any veteran struggling to find his way home,” Michael said.
“The environment they create and the program they run has a healing value I have yet to find in any VA,” Charles echoed.
Many thanks to our supporters who make this program possible—from those who donate their boats and condos to the meals, tours, golf carts, and more! You are the reason we can produce this transformative program.
Listen to what Charles had to say after attending:
“After going on the Offshore Experience trip to Costa Rica, I’m convinced that this program has the recipe for success for combat veterans. I’ve personally done a vast amount of different therapies and treatments that all had some value but lacked in other areas…. Freedom Alliance has opened my eyes to an entire new world of healing and breathed a new sense of life and hope in me….
“I have a profound amount of gratitude and love for what Freedom Alliance has done for me, and I thank every donor who helped make it happen. Your support will help save the lives of veterans who signed a blank check for your freedom. I can’t think of a better way to support veterans than by giving to Freedom Alliance.”
Reposted from www.faoffshore.com