Veterans on Deck helps vets overcome PTSD, MST

Veterans Voices

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Since 2010, a Charleston organization called Veterans on Deck has helped hundreds, maybe even thousands, of veterans overcome problems related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Military Sexual Trauma (MST).

It’s a recommended form of therapy from doctors at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center.

“I look forward to it every week,” said Guy Buzzell, who served in the Air Force for 20 years. “I love it. It’s helped me out a lot.”

“Once I found it I literally hopped aboard and haven’t gotten off ever since,” said Andrew Mitchell, another Air Force veteran.

Mark Ellwanger, the CEO and Chairman of the board for Veterans on Deck explains that the therapy works by getting out on the boats and sailing, creating a stressful situation, and hopefully overcoming that situation and getting back safely.

Over time, this nautical form of treatment gives veterans confidence.

“Another aspect of PTSD is isolation,” said Ellwanger. “They self isolate. Some of them just stay in their room and never come out. Here, if we can get them to come out on the boat, they start to talk to each other, because they’re all veterans. They’ve all got the same or similar experiences.”

Veterans from all over the country who find themselves living in the Lowcountry, also find a home with this organization.

“You’re never really a patient, you’re more of a team member,” said Mitchell.

He has been coming to Veterans on Deck for around 3 years.

“After I was disabled in the military, I had to learn how to walk again and now I can jump on a boat. So to have that as an option is quite a step literally. I enjoy it. A lot.”

“The comraderie and having that sail out there and listening to the wind and the quiet peacefulness. It’s great,” reflects Buzzell, who has been coming to Veterans on Deck for a few months.

Ellwanger says, the proof that this form of therapy works is reflected in the participants.

“We’ve seen as much as, in some people, thirty percent increase in ability to handle stress. Forty percent,” he said.

Therapy, friendship, and taking in the fresh air keeps many veterans ready for more.

“I’m gonna keep on coming,” said Buzzell.

Veterans on Deck is a volunteer and donation based organization with sails every week.

For more about Vets on Deck, click here to visit their website.

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