How did the Heroes Outreach Program begin?
A country free of military veteran suicide.
Our Mission Statement
Recognizing isolation and loss of camaraderie as factors contributing to the tragedy of twenty two military veterans committing suicide each day, Heroes Outreach Program (HOPe) establishes local outreach gatherings in communities to provide awareness, education, and prevention resources.
As a retired soldier who has served in combat zones myself, I truly understand the phrase "Welcome Home". For those not familiar with it, this is the greeting fellow soldiers, especially combat soldiers, give each other once they find they are speaking with a fellow 'brother-in-arms'. It's a short phrase. Just two simple words, but to a service member, that phrase means so much more than those words appear to present. It not only means, "Welcome home to the States" or "Welcome home to your home", it means "Your battle is over. You've come home and now the healing can begin." It means that you no longer have to look over your shoulder. It means you're now among friends. You've survived and you're back home with your brothers.
Unfortunately, far too many brothers and sisters haven't found that peace they thought they were coming home to. They struggle to reacquaint themselves with civilian life. They carry shadows of their experiences with them every day. Flashbacks, nightmares, hyper vigilance, sensitivity to loud noises, general irritability, inability to maintain a healthy romantic relationship, and a multitude of other symptoms plague our returning service members on a daily basis. As a result, we have experienced as many as 22 veterans a day committing suicide. The sad truth is, after seeing what they have seen and doing what they have done and experiencing what they have experienced, they find that they just can't flip a switch and turn it off. PTSD is a stealthy predator. It sneaks up on these service members, so slowly that they fail to recognize it for what it is. They just assume that everyone has flashbacks, or that their relationships fall apart because they simply chose the wrong partner. It's not until they seek counseling that they learn about PTSD and the devastating affect it is having on their lives. Unfortunately, far too many do not realize they need it and never seek that counseling. They struggle through life on their own until the normal day to day stresses we all feel, along with the burden of PTSD finally become too much to bear, and they find what they believe to be the only way out.
We at the Heroes Outreach Program know that there are alternatives to this vicious cycle. My name is John Morlock. As I said, I, too served in combat zones. I, too have suffered with PTSD for over 30 years. It wasn't until just the last two decades that I learned what it was and that I could deal with it in a healthy and productive way. For me, that counseling didn't begin until after I loaded a 357 Magnum handgun and blew the top of my head off trying to end my own life. Thankfully, I failed at that mission, but now, I have another mission that I refuse to fail at. I was a medic while serving in the Army, and I still have that strong desire to serve, and save, my fellow service members. I know personally, that we can all learn to live with PTSD and live a productive and happy life while "keeping our demons at bay". Toward that end, I am working to develop the Heroes Outreach Program - HOPe.
The Heroes Outreach Program, a recognized 501(c)3 nonprofit, is a support structure based on the model created by Alcoholics Anonymous. There will be gatherings in every city in every state. For a few years now I have seen the positive affects this program is having on fellow veterans. I have seen veterans open up about how they too have contemplated suicide, and some, even attempted it. I have seen numerous veterans shed tears as they talk about, not only their own struggles, but the near suicidal testimonies of their Buddies. These Gatherings provide a safe space where veterans can share their life stories and experiences with fellow veterans they know will understand. Combat veterans have a saying, “If I have to explain it to you, you wouldn't understand.” This may seem like an insult to the 'uninitiated', but it is not meant that way. What that sentence says is that there are simply not enough words in the English language to describe even one solitary moment of combat. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the loneliness, the camaraderie, the loyalty, the fear, the anger, the thoughts of family you may be leaving behind... The list will go on and on. Veterans know they don't stand a chance of expressing all of that to someone who has never been there. They also know that with a fellow veteran, they don't have to. This program connects these veterans with others who already understand the challenges each of them endure every day. The program IS successful. We ARE saving lives.