We serve veterans with combat-related disabilities and their spouses by covering the cost of gym memberships to help beat PTSD.
The name of our organization is Make a Vet Sweat, but we’re dedicated to helping everyone beat PTSD with physical activity and community support. Our mission is to be the voice for those who can’t or don’t want to speak up, and to help them realize they’re not alone.
22 military veterans commit suicide every day. One in three returning troops are diagnosed with serious PTSD symptoms. Less than 40% seek help. In the general population, 3 million cases of PTSD are diagnosed every year – the result of traumatic events such as violence and sexual abuse.
I served in the Army for 10 years, and did 2 tours in Iraq. When I got home, I worked as a recruiter, and really enjoyed teaching people about the benefits of serving our country. I convinced myself everything was fine – until I wrapped a government vehicle around a pole. I had a flashback to an explosion that had occurred in Iraq, and that’s when the accident happened.
That forced me to admit something might be wrong. There’s such a stigma in the military – soldiers are afraid they’ll be seen as weak if they ask for help. Sadly, many veterans, including several in my unit, end up committing suicide rather than getting the help they need.
I went to see a doctor and a counselor who told me what I already knew. I was depressed, I had anxiety, and I couldn’t sleep. The doctor prescribed medication, but it only seemed to make things worse. I’m not saying medication can’t help. I’m just saying that for me, it wasn’t the solution. I didn’t like not feeling like myself and my close family members were concerned as well.
Believe it or not, about that time I saw a flyer for a cage fight that was taking place in 60 days. I was in pretty good shape, but I thought, “What if I just go for it?” I threw myself into training, and soon I realized that physical activity was helping me deal with my PTSD. I stopped taking medication and started making physical fitness a real priority.
How Make a Vet Sweat Began
I moved to Austin to go to school, and got a part-time job working in a local gym. I’m a pretty outgoing guy, and when I mentioned I’d been in the Army, a lot of veterans started reaching out to me. Many of them asked me what I was doing differently because I seemed to be adjusting to civilian life so well. 9 times out of 10 when I asked if they were working out regularly, the answer was “No.” I decided then and there I wanted to start an organization to help veterans understand that physical activity can be a huge benefit when it comes to dealing with PTSD. PTSD affects self-confidence and pride. Soldiers are all about physical fitness, mental alertness, and being morally straight -mind body and soul. When one falters the balance is off. Many veterans lose the incentive to stay active and strong, and their self. To add to the problem, many veterans are unemployed, going to school, and struggling to adjust to “normal” life. The incidence of drug and alcohol abuse is staggering. Depression just spirals downward unless the veterans get help. Fitness is a great release. The gym can be extremely effective therapy.
The Forgotten Victims
Military spouses are greatly affected by a veteran’s PTSD. In my case, my wife at the time tried to wake me up and the PTSD is what woke up. My reaction – a result of increased emotional arousal – put her in fear for her life.
Even if that doesn’t happen in every case, the husband or wife who returns with PTSD isn’t the same as before, and that’s extremely hard for the family. That’s why I wanted to offer free gym memberships to spouses of veterans as well. Too often, the ones holding it together at home are overlooked. And shortly after I started Make a Vet Sweat, people reached out to me to tell me that they, too, had PTSD. Not from combat, but from being raped, being sexually or physically abused as children, being threatened, or being the victim of violent acts. I want to help everyone who deals with PTSD – regardless of its origin.
You Can Help
That’s my story, and the story of Make a Vet Sweat. I’ve lost far too many friends to suicide, and seen many more struggle with PTSD.
We’re a young organization and would really appreciate your help. Contact us to volunteer. We need help with everything from soliciting gym memberships to selling T-shirts at events to business operations. Your efforts can help us save lives.