Announcement:

Vets Journey Home USA Board of Directors

On June 25, 2021, the Vets Journey Home Board of Directors made the decision to dissolve the Vets Journey Home organization. Like the Four Directions all things must end in this circle of life. The decision to close our organization was a difficult one.  We had to recognize the effect of COVID-19 on volunteer staff and potential Veteran participants across the country.  There are now many programs serving Veterans that have come into existence since we started serving veterans in 1989 as “The Bamboo Bridge” (see our “History” below).

As of December 31, 2021, Vets Journey Home USA will be dissolving as a corporate entity.  All assets of the corporation will be distributed to other non-profit organizations with similar missions.

Based on the challenges to our staff and new programs available to Veterans through out the US, the “Vets Journey Home USA” Board of Directors has decided that the mission of the organization to serve the under-served in healing the wounds of war has been picked up by others and that our service is no longer essential.

It is with deep love for and devotion to our Veterans that we have kept the program going this long.  Please know that our hearts are heavy in making this difficult decision.  We have held, served, cried with, rejoiced with, and honored many Veterans over the years.  We are still a big family and many of us continue to be there in service to our Veterans and staff.  We just will not be together on VJH retreats any more.  We can continue to connect through Facebook, E-mail, in person and phone calls.

With Love to you all from the USA Board of Directors,

Breezy Brzeski     Robin Stauffer     Lin Daley     Penney Johns         Doug Szper

August 12, 2021

VJH History of Service to Veterans and their Families

In 1989 Bamboo Bridge Retreats were started by a group of volunteers, to help heal the wounds of war that Viet Nam Veterans were experiencing.  Christen Cramer (Army Veteran), had attended a retreat designed to release some emotional baggage he carried from his time in service, with Patricia Clason (civilian).  Christen wanted something that would specifically address Viet Nam Veterans and assist them in healing.

Christen and Patricia reworked the program she was presenting to help address the needs of Veterans.  In 2004 the program was turned over to Gene McMahon (Navy Veteran) and Al Fletcher (Army Ranger Veteran) and the name was changed to Vets Journey Home.  Patricia and Christen were involved for a few more years off and on with Gene and Al.

Gene and Al wanted to open the program to include all Veterans serving during any time period and any type of service. Many programs at that time separated the Veterans based on service time.  Gene and Al wanted to have them all come together because the trauma and healing runs across generations. We have even had fathers and sons attend the same weekend and heal not only service related wounds but relationship wounds also. They were concerned for the Desert Storm Veterans and new post 9/11 service members and Veterans. Gene and Al didn’t want them to suffer like the Viet Nam vets did from lack of care at the VA and by society. In 2014 Gene retired from the program and has continued his outreach to Veterans on a personal level. 

In 2011 VJH – USA was incorporated with Gene as President.  Several more Veterans came on board and civilians. In 20XX??? VJH expanded under Gene’s guidance by establishing a VJH-PA Center. This Center grew with its own Board of Directors and fund-raising capabilities. In 2012 VJH Wisconsin incorporated and the Wisconsin staff took on board positions and staff leadership positions with Gene’s guidance.  As VJH continued to grow, there was an increase of instructors in training to serve more retreats. At that time we developed the following Vision Statement:

We serve all Veterans: combat Veterans, peace-time Veterans, in-country or mainland, any time or engagement. Any Veteran, male or female, still feeling emotional pain connected to military service is welcomed to the Vets Journey Home (at no cost to them).

Our instructors also have helped other new Veteran groups who were serving families and Veterans through arts and music. Our instructors have helped the families of Seal Team 6 after the helicoptor disaster and assisted with Soldier’s Heart,  Warrior Songs  and Angel Fire retreats. In the past, our staff have volunteered with many other organizations of Veteran groups to provide the years of knowledge that we have gained from serving Veterans and their families. We have been blessed to serve Veterans on the West Coast, Midwest, Southeast, and East Coast. Many of our volunteers and Veterans have passed on and we are so grateful for the time we have had with them over the years and the many gifts they gave us.

Times have changed since the beginning and we have changed the program many times to meet the changing needs of our Veterans. When Bamboo Bridge began it was focused on male Viet Nam combat Veterans.  Over time, women were included and then a Women’s military sexual trauma (MST) retreat was developed to meet the specific needs of many women Veterans.  A Couples Retreat was also developed to serve the complicated needs of couples who have had frquent or extended deployments which interfered with the communication and created wounds that families experience.  In 2017, we added a Wellness Retreat to help continue the healing of Veterans through alternative therapies like yoga, massage, art, refexology, accupuncture, acupressure, EFT, meditation and many more options.

In additition to holding retreats, our VJH teams in Wisconsin, California, and the East Coast have also been involved in Community outreach.  We have participated in many fundraising events, speaking engagements, conferences, workshops, and as well as major Veterans programs on Veterans Day and Memorial Day each year.  Our staff and instructors have put in many extra hours helping Veterans in crisis at hospitals and supporting their families through fundraisers and emotional support. All this work has been done by volunteers, not one of us has been paid for our service to Veterans. We have all held strong to the belief ;

“You Served In Our Name And Because You Were Subject To Orders, We Lift The Burden Of Your Actions From You,, And Take It Onto Our Shoulders. We Are Responsible, As a Nation, For You, For What You Did And For The Consequences.”

Over the years we have worked with VA programs and Vet Centers in several states and encouraged change to increase services for all Veterans.  Our staff have been invited to sit on many Veteran nonprofit organizations (NPO) boards of directors as experienced community members who have worked with Veterans for many years.  We have witnessed some very encouraging change take place and more services and treatments implemented.  Many more Veteran NPO’s have opened up to serve Veterans and their families.  Each branch of service has now implemented more programs for the emotional healing of families, service members, and Veterans along with transitional discharge programs. The VFW and American Legion posts have also changed their programing to include Desert Storm and OIF, OEF Veterans.

In recent years, VJH has seen many Veterans sign up for our programs and then not show up to the reteats.  Our Wellness Program can take up to 30 participants, we have had that many sign up with a waiting list, only to have half actually arrive.  Our instructors and instructors in training have worked with all of the participants for weeks prior to the retreats via phone to keep them engaged and moving forward toward the retreat.  Our belief is that the Veterans have many other program options and simply choose to do the ones that are more ‘exciting or pay their way to the retreat’.

The extra cost of paying the retreat sites for ‘no-shows’ has also been a factor in our decision to end the program.
We want to honor all of our wonderful volunteers who have donated time, energy, resources, and love to our program and Veterans. Without you the healing and connections would not have been possible. We rejoice in the love and devotion each of you have given to staff and participants. Each of us has gained so much from your experiences with Vets Journey Home. Many of us have grown emotionally and done our own work because of the work our Veterans have experienced. Our hope is that each of you will go on to share and educate the general population about the need for Veteran services and advocate in your state for Veterans.

Phone: (414) 979-9113
Email:info@vetsjourneyhome.org
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Vets Journey Home, Inc.

 

(Mailing Only)
8989 Port Washington Road Ste. 227
Milwaukee, WI 53217
(414) 979-9113
| info@vetsjourneyhome.org

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