Easing Soldiers’ Recovery

In the wake of the Walter Reed scandal and countless headlines
detailing the travails of veterans returning from Iraq, a few
programs are taking innovative approaches to helping returning
soldiers heal.

New Directions, a Los Angeles-based drug
rehabilitation program for homeless veterans, has enlisted the help
of some unconventional therapists — parrots — in an effort to aid
the city’s large veteran population. Dr. Lorin Lindner, an
eco-psychologist and clinical director at New Directions, and a
cast of helpers have created an avian sanctuary for rescued birds
that functions as an occupational therapy site for veterans.
Serenity Park, as the sanctuary has been aptly named, is a tranquil
space where veterans tend to abandoned and abused parrots. Lindner
tells the
Los AngelesCityBeat that she got the idea for the program during
an outing with veterans to a similar parrot sanctuary. ‘They
developed a greater sense of empathy,’ Lindner recalls of the
veterans’ reactions. ‘The birds are similarly suffering from
traumatic stress and that commonality helps them to heal — both
the veterans and the birds.’ Matthew H. Simmons, a veteran and
worker at Serenity Park, puts it this way: ‘I like to say that
working with birds is kind of like Prozac. You have to be gentle
and calm, something that I’ve never been before.’

Addiction and homelessness aren’t the only risks returning
soldiers face. Navigating their way through the bureaucratic
channels of colleges and universities can also be daunting, and
often hampers their ability to take full advantage of their
educational benefits. Fortunately a program specifically designed
to help veterans overcome some of these obstacles will begin this
fall at Cleveland State University. Called
Supportive
Education for the Returning Veteran
, or SERV, the program will
feature history classes that focus on countries where veterans have
served, courses on biological warfare, and composing essays to help
them sort through their traumatic war experiences.

The idea is to equip veterans with the information and tools
they need to readjust. But, since the classes will be offered to
veterans only, the program also aims to recreate the sense of
camaraderie that many soldiers miss upon their return home. As John
Schupp, SERV’s creator, tells the
ClevelandScene, ‘They all
are gonna stick together, and they’re all gonna succeed
together.’

Go there >>
Birds Of A Feather

Go there, too >>
A Hero’s Welcome

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