On March 31st 2021 I had decided I didn't want to live anymore. Unresolved and unaddressed traumas from my deployment to Afghanistan and return home had piled up and I didn't want to continue going through life in pain and exhausted. Luckily a battle buddy helped me get to inpatient mental health treatment that literally saved my life. Since then I have continued with mental health treatment and have also searched for opportunities that would both help continue my path to wellness and enrich my life.
When I attended the Project Comeback open house I really wasn't sure what to expect. When we first entered the field with the horses, I was first intimidated. They are such beautiful and majestic creatures and I have little to no personal experience with them. As Lindsay and the other instructors showed us how to interact with the horses I became more comfortable and gravitated to a horse named Nemi. We connected in a way that is hard to explain. Little did I know at the time that Nemi was one of the most abused horses of the herd and seldom let people interact with him. It made me feel so amazing to know that through some shared experience as living things, he and I both saw the survivor and fighter in each other. I knew at that moment that this program was something I needed to participate in.
Over the last several weeks the program has been incredible. It has given me the opportunity to bond with fellow veterans, a chance for civilians in our community to better understand veterans and the unique challenges we experience, and most importantly provides a medium through which my past trauma and recovery are my greatest strengths. Through this program the pain I have gone through is given purpose and allows me to enrich the life of a beautiful animal.
I am working with Percy, a retired thoroughbred. Thoroughbreds are trained hard in their early lives but then are quickly passed on once their racing days are done without much direction or thought to what comes next. They often don't know how to interact with other horses because all they have lived is life in the racing world. I felt very much the same way after my life as a soldier was over. I had been trained hard, served my purpose, and then thrown back into a world that didn't really understand me. It's a metaphor that has such power and resonates with every other veteran I have told about the program.
Project Comeback is unique from many other programs I've participated in because ultimately it is about helping the horses. Lindsay and her staff look to veterans to be the difference in these horses' lives. They play on our strengths and treat us as partners in the rehabilitation process. It's an amazing program and it's been an incredible experience I feel privileged to be a part of.