A veteran joined the Warrior PATHH Program in desperate need of help.
Marked by the heavy toll of serving his country and community, the veteran was plagued by the same terrible nightmare every night for 16 years.
After five days in the Warrior PATHH Program, the nightmares ended.
Warrior PATHH Program Director Chris Jackson feels accomplished — the revolutionary program has improved yet another veteran or first responder’s life.
In the middle of the rolling, lush greenery of Rogers, Arkansas, veterans and first responders will find one of the most revolutionary programs dedicated to post-traumatic growth.
Founded in 2010, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance (SDIA) is a national nonprofit founded and headquartered in Rogers that provides charitable services benefiting the overall well-being of our nation’s veterans and first responders. These veterans and first responders come together to create a community that the program calls “Sheep Dogs.” The Sheep Dogs, who protect and guide everyday civilians, consist of veterans, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and EMS personnel, and begin their journey to post-traumatic growth through SDIA’s “Get Off The Couch” programming.
SDIA engages, assists and empowers the nation’s heroes through its three main programming pillars: Outdoor Adventures (physical activity), Warrior PATHH Training (mental wellness) and Continued Service/Disaster Response (volunteerism) programs.
A description of Sheep Dog’s website best explains the organization’s mission:
“Our nation’s heroes have an innate desire to serve, and their service gives meaning and purpose to their lives. After an injury or shift/tour of duty ends, that meaning and purpose are often lost. Posttraumatic stress, injuries, depression, addiction, and isolation plague our Sheep Dogs to the point of thinking about and/or attempting suicide. Through our Get Off The Couch programming, Sheep Dogs who have suffered similar traumas and experiences gather together for camaraderie and opportunities to continue serving, which helps prevent suicides in our Veteran and First Responder communities.”
Chris Jackson is the program director for one of these pillars, Warrior PATHH.
The Warrior PATHH Program, which is an acronym for (Progressive and Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) is the nation’s ﬁrst non-clinical, peer-to-peer program designed to assist struggling combat veterans and first responders in learning how to use their past trauma and experiences to achieve Post-traumatic Growth (PTG). He shares that by engaging first responders and veterans in physical activities and outdoor camaraderie, their innate desire to serve is fulfilled again.
This December, the Warrior PATHH program started its 18th course. Jackson has been retired from the U.S. Marines for over nine years, after over 27 years of service. Jackson saw firsthand the drastic need for improved veteran services. Warrior PATHH was created with the input of some of the nation’s leading psychologists and therapists who specialize in post-traumatic stress disorder and veteran affairs.
Sheep Dog’s three-pillar system allows a veteran or first responder to receive the type of assistance that they need, helping everyone in some capacity. Sheep Dogs who participate in the program follow a 90-day curriculum separated by gender, including seven days of in-person training at the on-site ranch and information about 31 different wellness practices to help participants find what works best for them. The first seven on-site days of the program consist of classroom and outdoor settings from 6:30 a.m. until 9 p.m.
“We give people the tools they need to help find out what works for them. We help veterans and first responders find closure and create their new story going forward so they can continue service,” Jackson said. “The Sheep Dog community, veterans and first responders, are about service — it gives our lives meaning. The program is started by warriors for warriors. It’s the first post-traumatic growth course ever made. All of these groups had people in them that have struggles, but learned how to move past that, and thrive. All instructors are veterans and first responders. We’re all further down our Warrior PATHH journey because we’ve all done it ourselves.”
Jackson shares that Warrior PATTH was created to fill a need that wasn’t being met.
“The mainstream mental health and apparatus structure wasn’t working well for many veterans and first responders. This is not therapy, it’s training and people sharing experiences from peer to peer — no doctors or therapists,” he explained.
After the initial seven days, warriors have 90 follow-up days where they use their student guide, an app or website with resources and daily videos, and follow-up calls with their team. The app used is similar to a social media platform, where warriors can post updates to their team and all alumni.
Jackson mentions that this journey is not quick, and it’s not easy. The road to post-traumatic growth is a constant journey.
“We let everyone know that this is hard work. You’re not going to get out of your spot in seven days, but you’ve got everything that you need to continue moving forward,” Jackson said.
And while this is hard work for participants and guides alike, Jackson affirms that the hard work is worth it when lives are improved and changed. He shares some of the feedback that Warrior PATHH alumni have given.
“I came into Warrior PATHH broken, scared and isolated. I left with confidence, a meaning for life and joy, a tribe of fellow warriors and a new routine to my life. Once I was living day to day, now I am dreaming about my future.”“Looking inward and sharing with my brothers what I found has changed my perception of reality and given me real hope for my life.”“Seven days at Warrior PATHH has done more for me than 10 years at the VA.”“I have been able to ask the deepest question— ‘What am I hiding?’ With that self-acknowledgment, I have navigated the PATHH to further my progression and be the best version of myself.”“After years of therapy with continuing problems at home, and after reading numerous self-help books, to little avail, the course material, style of instruction and unmatched tools and environment of Warrior PATHH at Sheep Dog Impact Assistance finally broke through my lingering issues. I now have a clear plan forward with group assistance and accountability. Thank you, Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, for giving me a lifelong change.”
Behind alumni testimonials is data that proves the Warrior PATHH Program makes an impact.
“We’ve seen a 58% drop in PTSD symptoms, a 55% reduction in anxiety and significant increases in positive outlooks and quality of life. Some of the things that people have gone through are just incredible, and you see these enormous shifts. One woman couldn’t speak about things that had happened in her childhood for over 29 years, and now she can because of the program,” Jackson shared.
Jackson is thankful that the community has been so supportive of their cause.
“Thanks to the community around us, and the generous individuals who have contributed to this cause, there’s no cost to veterans and first responders. Our community helps us do this work,” he said. “Our warriors have paid the price already. Now, it’s time to help them move forward.”
If you’d like more information about the Warrior PATHH program, visit their website here.
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