Throughout Columbia, Lexington and the Midlands, you can find a wide range of organizations that are dedicated to making a difference in people’s lives. To bring attention to the important work of these organizations, The Jeffcoat Firm launched our “Community Spotlight” series. In this series, we highlight local groups that are making a difference in our communities. We hope that you enjoy reading about these unique and innovative organizations and become inspired to support their efforts.
Hidden Wounds: Helping Heroes to Battle the Invisible War at Home
Hidden Wounds is a non-profit, all-volunteer organization based in Columbia. Its mission is to provide “peace of mind and comfort” for military personnel with combat-related stress injuries. Many of the soldiers who benefit from the organization’s services suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety and other issues that simply weigh heavily on their minds and hearts. The organization is part of the Project Josiah Restoration Ministries, which offers support services for combat veterans through many other groups such as Broken Focus.
Hidden Wounds strives to bridge the gap between a soldier’s return home and his or her receipt of long-term services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ Veterans Administration (VA). It serves all active-duty, veteran and retired service members from all U.S. military branches, regardless of their discharge status. Hidden Wounds also works with guardsmen and reservists.
Combat Soldiers Face Mental Health, Moral Challenges
Soldiers can face tremendous challenges when they return home from combat. As the Josiah Project notes, many soldiers’ combat experiences stand “in sharp contrast to the Christian values and norms of society in which they were raised.” As a result, they may find it difficult to adjust to “normal peacetime daily routines” and immerse themselves into society.
According to Stars and Stripes, the VA reports that roughly 21 active-duty service members, veterans, guardsmen and reservists succumb to suicide in our country every day, or more than 7,500 over the course of the year. Many of these soldiers suffer from mental and emotional health issues such as PTSD. In fact, the VA reports that PTSD affects every year:
- Between 11 to 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans
- Around 12 percent of Gulf War veterans
- About 15 percent of Vietnam War veterans.
This is why organizations such as Hidden Wounds are so important in South Carolina and throughout the country. Sadly, many veterans need immediate help when they return, but the VA is unable to offer them services until several months have passed. They are in a fragile state during that period.
In fact, Hidden Wounds was established in 2009 honor of a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham, who had served two combat tours in Iraq before he returned to his hometown of Columbia. He was waiting to start an in-patient VA treatment program for PTSD and depression when, at the age of 23, he took his own life.
To illustrate the struggles which many soldiers face, the Hidden Wounds website includes a passage from Bigham’s journal in which he describes the first time he needed to kill another person while in the military. Bigham discovered that it was a 12-year-old boy who had thrown a “dud” grenade at him and his patrol. “I wept that night,” Bigham wrote.
Hidden Wounds Offers a Range of Programs and Services
Hidden Wounds is run by a board of directors which includes members from three U.S. Armed Forces branches, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and a military combat veteran spouse. They oversee a volunteer-driven organization that provides services which include:
- Treatment – Hidden Wounds acts as a “safety net” for soldiers who need immediate, emergency psychological treatment but are unable – for a period of time – to receive long-term, government-funded services through the VA.
- Liaison Services – Many soldiers are reluctant to seek mental health services, while others simply do not know what steps to take. Hidden Wounds serves as a liaison between these soldiers, families and counselors.
- Support Groups – One of the most important services which Hidden Wounds provides is the organization of non-clinical peer support groups. During these sessions, soldiers can feel free to discuss the challenges which they face and simply get things off their chest “without fear of recrimination or reprisal.”
- Therapeutic Services – Hidden Wounds has also teamed up with The Big Red Barn Retreat in rural Richland County to provides services such as yoga sessions, equine therapy, art classes and coffee support groups. Soldiers can also work in the retreat’s garden or participate in beekeeping.
Hidden Wounds operates out of Columbia. However, the organization has worked with active-duty service members and veterans and their families in 12 states. It has also assisted an active-duty soldier stationed overseas.
How Can You Support Hidden Wounds?
Hidden Wounds offers services at no cost to current and former military service members or their families. However, unlike the Veterans Administration, Hidden Wounds is not a government-funded organization. So, it relies on the generosity of donors, corporate sponsors, partnerships with civic organizations and local businesses and the hard work and dedication of its volunteers.
If you would like to support Hidden Wounds and its mission, you can find plenty of ways to do so. To make a tax-deductible donation, you can simply go to the organization’s website. As the organization states, “Every dollar makes a difference.”
You can also get involved with Hidden Wounds as a volunteer. The website provides an application form which you can fill out. You can also reach out to Hidden Wounds by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Additionally, you can support Hidden Wounds and its partners by attending events such as the Summer Concert Series, Drift Jam-Flotilla Music Festival or Big Red Barn Retreat Summer Jam, which is set for July 19, 2019 at Doko Meadows Park Amphitheatre in Blythewood. Make sure to check out the Hidden Wounds Facebook page to see a list of upcoming events.