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Overcoming the darkness

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REBOOT program in Manchester will focus on the spiritual aspects of combat recovery.

Story and photo by John Hummer

Kelly Anderson lost her husband to a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – related suicide. Now it is her mission to do all she can do to help prevent other veterans from going down the same road.

Anderson, along with three others on a leadership team, is bringing the internationally-renowned REBOOT program to the area – in Manchester beginning March 4.

“I lived the torment he went through after coming home from Iraq and Somalia and I saw our family disintegrating,” Anderson said. “Then when we lost him, I saw the struggles that my kids were going through.”

Anderson’s son is a Marine who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“He also has PTSD,” she said. “This is my way of making sure that people don’t have to go through what I went through.”

Shawn Halleck is a veteran and is a member of the REBOOT leadership team.

“Being a member of the leadership in this group is a way for me to give back to my fellow veterans,” Halleck said. “We have all dealt with the problems from going to combat. Our system at REBOOT is a way to truly heal in a way that no one else has looked at. I am honored and proud to get this running in Manchester and look forward to helping veterans in my local area.”

The Manchester REBOOT team, from left: Sharon Flores, nutrition coordinator; Kelly Anderson, group leader; and Melissa Lawhorn, outreach coordinator. Not pictured: Shawn Halleck, veteran and group leader.

REBOOT started in 2011 and is moving across the nation and internationally. It focuses on the spiritual aspects of combat recovery. REBOOT is a 12-week free course – not a support group – providing practical help for service members and families dealing with the after-effects of combat. The brochure for the program says, “You won’t find shortcuts or easy answers, but instead you’ll find solutions that last.”

“When my husband came back from Somalia, he was a different man,” said Anderson. “He looked the same and sounded the same, but he was a completely different person. My perspective, as a wife and as a mother, I can see what changes have been brought about. Now that I have a little more under my belt, I’m hoping to be able to, with my cohorts here, reach out to these veterans and let them know they’re not alone – that there are ways that we can support them and give them some tools to help them heal. We don’t fix or cure PTSD, but we give them tools to help them get through and to find the joy that is missing.”

“It’s a much-needed resource,” said Melissa Lawhorn, the team’s outreach coordinator. “[The program] approaches it from a different aspect that’s been tried before. They’ve documented where they have seen reduced numbers in suicide deaths. They have seen reduced numbers of divorces. It has shown reconciliation in relationships. Also, substance abuse has been reduced.”

Lawhorn got involved because she’s always wanted to work with veterans. She has many family members who have military backgrounds.

“I’ve been searching for something that fit what I felt was right for me,” she says. “I never found it until I found information about REBOOT. I checked into a little more. I knew this is what I was called to work with.”

Anderson says the program heals veterans both spiritually and morally.

“Our system at REBOOT is a way to truly heal in a way that no one else has looked at. I am honored and proud to get this running in Manchester and look forward to helping veterans in my local area.”

Shawn Halleck
Veteran and REBOOT team member

“We were raised by our parents to follow these certain rules and morals. And then, as military people, they are required to go out and do things that they have been taught, and what they learned through their childhood, were inherently wrong – but were required to do to protect our country and the freedoms that we have here.

“So, then they come home and they’re dealing with this guilt. Not only are they dealing with the guilt of what they’ve had to do, but also are dealing with the guilt of seeing their brothers in arms who have been killed next to them. They’re dealing with survivors’ guilt as well.”

A lot of times veterans are not reconciling with the faith that can help them heal from these wounds, and those wounds are typically deeper than physical wounds.

Anderson says, “REBOOT offers them tools. It is non-denominational, but also has some Christian-based values and teachings from the Bible. What we’re trying to do is give them tools to help get them through some of these other aspects of war that have hurt them tremendously.

Sharon Flores is the group’s nutrition coordinator. Her husband is a three-war veteran.

“I’ve been wanting to help, knowing what my husband has been through,” she said. “And knowing that there is a very disconnect on helping our veterans.”

“Everybody I feel that is meant to be a part of this has come forward,” Lawhorn added. “Our families are involved in this so it’s more of a community.”

Even Pastor Ron Clark of Community Bible Church in Manchester is involved, because his church is where the 12-week program will take place.

REBOOT is geared to help combat veterans. “If they want to come, we will take them,” says Melissa Lawhorn.

“Pastor Ron has opened the church doors to us and has been hugely supportive,” Lawhorn said. “He has been so supportive and so giving that the whole community is rallying around us.”

Anderson says because the new REBOOT chapter is the only one in this area, the group has the luck and the privilege of reaching veterans in Washtenaw, Jackson, Lenawee, and Livingston counties, as well as surrounding counties.

“If they want to come, we’ll take them,” she says. “Now all we got to do is, like they say, get the butts in the chairs. So, we’re looking for veterans!”

Anderson added that the beauty of the REBOOT program is that the veterans that participate in the course are then empowered to go about and develop their own chapters.

“We’re looking to be a hub to start this in our community and then let it spread out so that we’re reaching more veterans.”

The team also plans on continuing to offer the REBOOT course.

“Our goal is to have this as a continuous program,” Lawhorn says. “We’re going to offer it again in the fall and next year. We’re here for the long haul.” During the summer months, the team will also promote REBOOT in county fairs to get the word out.”

Lawhorn also wanted to stress that dinner is provided for all participants, which will also help in building a foundation of trust amongst all involved in the program.

“I think food is comfort. It is love,” said Sharon Flores, nutrition coordinator for the group. It is all those things that bring people together. I think that’s what they need more than anything. They need to know that there are people that support them and care about them. My hope is, at the end [of the program], that they build relationships with all of us that carry on beyond this program.”

Lawhorn added that the team would like to continue getting together with participants following the program, whether it’s meeting in the summer or going to events such as a NASCAR race at MIS together.

“We don’t want it to end after 12-weeks,” she said. “That’s important to us.”

The REBOOT program will be on Mondays starting March 4 and will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Community Bible Church at 8400 Sharon Hollow Road in Manchester, Mich. Interested people can register now at rebootrecovery.com. For more information, contact Melissa Lawhorn at 734-417-6813, firelocks@gmail.com.

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