28 Sep Nonprofit Meets the Changing Needs of Today’s Wounded, Ill and Injured Warriors with PLH Group Support
In 2009, when U.S. Marine Corps veteran Elijah Sacra co-founded Warrior Wellness Solutions, the wounded, ill and injured military service members and veterans with whom the nonprofit organization worked were usually visibly wounded.
“They were Purple Heart recipients, shot by snipers or blown up by IEDs, often missing limbs and suffering visible effects of traumatic brain injury,” said Sacra, executive director of Warrior Wellness Solutions.
The nonprofit’s mission is to bring hope and healing to hundreds of such warriors through a combination of holistic nutrition, functional movement exercise and mindful yoga therapy delivered by way of both one-on-one coaching and group workshops — including several sponsored by PLH Group, Inc. at the USMC Wounded Warrior Battalion East at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNMMC) in Bethesda, Md., the most recent on August 14 at WRNMMC.
Over recent years, though, as military activity in the Middle East has throttled back, so has the number of warriors returning stateside with obvious injuries resulting from incidents of war. Many of today’s warriors are coming home with what the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Defense term, “unexplained illness.”
“Basically, they’re sick all the time, and mainstream medical tests aren’t pinpointing the root cause,” Sacra said. “Through functional medicine and more personalized testing, we are seeing a high number of tests results coming back identifying heavy-metal toxicity from exposure to mercury, lead or chemicals, as well as digestive system health issues stemming from chronic stress, poor diet, sleep deprivation, over-medication and unchecked chronic inflammation.”
Many warriors simultaneously suffer chronic joint pain from inflammation caused by medication or hours spent sitting in military vehicles, he continued. Some even have herniated discs from carrying heavy packs through the mountains of Afghanistan, as well as intestinal parasites from drinking the water in other countries.
One health problem hasn’t changed, he said. Today’s warriors still return home with traumatic brain injuries; the difference lies in how they sustained them. Just as the NFL is learning that football players don’t require concussions for brain injury, so is the DOD discovering that warriors don’t require IED explosions for brain injury. Repeated use of a shoulder-fired missile or the repetitive practice of explosive breaching of doors and walls can have the same effect.
“The new traumatic brain injury isn’t caused by the enemy,” Sacra said. “It’s caused by doing your job.”
Although the VA is spending billions of dollars on prescription medications to treat the myriad health issues of today’s service members and veterans, “the number one most effective treatment for these conditions is cellular regeneration through nutrition,” Sacra said. “Over-medication causes its own set of problems, including the side effect of killing the good bacteria in the digestive tract, which is essential for proper digestion. Dozens of diseases have been linked to bacterial imbalance, including depression and cancer.”
Warrior Wellness Solutions has always advocated clean eating, juicing and the use of superfoods, such as spinach, kale and chia seeds, for their positive, healing effects on body, mind and spirit. To set the stage for cellular regeneration, Warrior Wellness Solutions co-founder and operations director Clarissa Kussin, a certified detoxification specialist, chef and integrative nutrition health coach, has added herbs, botanicals and tonics that focus on a deeper, more refined and thorough detoxification of the body’s systems.
Sacra, an exercise science professional and integrative nutrition health coach, uses rehabilitative exercise, yoga techniques and Foundation Training, a holistic movement practice designed to restore posture by strengthening the posterior chain and important core muscles to relieve most chronic pain stemming from joint and spinal compression. Spinal compression also compresses nerves that interconnect major organs to the brain as part of the involuntary nervous system, so relieving it can have the added effect of improving heart rate, breathing and digestion.
Do their techniques, which some might consider “New Age,” actually work?
“Absolutely,” Sacra maintains. The organization’s success stories are many. They include retired Sgt. Chris Hancock, who lost both legs in Afghanistan and later enrolled in the Holistic Nutrition School at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition; retired Cpl. Patrick Matisi, who was shot through the arm and chest by a Taliban sniper and now works for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency; and Cpl. Michael Politowicz, who was blown up by an IED that shattered his forearm with shrapnel and caused a traumatic brain injury, and who is among the 1 percent of Marines to leave the Wounded Warrior Battalion and return to active duty with Marine Corps Special Operations. All three of these Purple Heart-awarded Marines have paid it forward by sharing their stories at Warrior Wellness Solutions workshops to inspire others.
Warrior Wellness Solutions has also worked with Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel, who can’t be identified or profiled for security reasons, but the nonprofit’s successes in restoring SOF service members to health and vitality resulted in Sacra and Kussin’s recent appointment to the SOF Health Initiatives Medical Advisory Board.
“We’ve all heard about the 22 suicides a day, and a number of organizations have done a lot to raise awareness,” Sacra said, referring to a 2013 VA research study showing that an average of 22 U.S. military veterans committed suicide each day between 1999 and 2010. “But awareness has been raised, and now it’s time for a solution. This is a solution that can make these warriors feel good again, both physically and mentally, so that they can live a life of purpose.”
About Warrior Wellness Solutions
A community-based 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Warrior Wellness Solutions (formerly known as Semper Fidelis Health & Wellness) fills a critical gap in services and treatment for wounded, ill and injured warriors and their caregivers by providing multi-dimensional holistic health and wellness lifestyle solutions. The Warrior Wellness Solutions Program addresses warriors’ and their caregivers’ health and wellness by providing them with the tools to create a sustained impact on their lives, using integrative nutrition health coaching, detoxification, rehabilitative exercise, functional movement and mindful yoga therapy. This program teaches participants how to increase energy, release weight, become their own health advocate and implement sustainable health practices to meet their overall personal health and wellness goals and enhance their relationships. The Warrior Wellness Solutions Program consists of intensive one-on-one sessions, workshops and classes provided free of charge to warriors and their caregivers. The organization was founded in 2009 by U.S. Marine Corps veterans and a career holistic health and wellness practitioner. For more information, visit warriorwellnessSolutions.org.