Help at Home: Veterans get out and get moving with Team Red White & Blue

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As military veterans return from serving our country, adjusting to life at home can be a tall order for some. The routine, camaraderie and structure of military life are gone. Some vets are challenged by wounds and scars both visible to the eye and underneath the skin.

One non-profit says it’s found the key for vets and other active duty members who are suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Team Red White & Blue has only been around since 2010 but is up to 40,000 members and grows by 600 people a week. Its goal is simple: Get out and get moving. Organizers  say beating things like post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD shouldn’t be done alone. It takes teamwork.

Members like former Army Specialist Ben Donovan and current Army Sgt 1st Class Jeff Lawson both struggle with PTSD and find help in the physical and social activity that Team Red White & Blue provides.

Inside Vigilant Elite Training in far north suburban Gurnee, Jeff and Ben workout side by side with military men and woman and civilians. They left, row and run – and they are also to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The symptoms are affecting the lives of some of these soldiers’ everyday with sleeplessness, isolation, and for some they are living with the challenges of reintegrating into society.

And underneath his wild exterior,  the shock of orange hair, the body piercings, and the tattoos, 28-year-old Donovan masks his PTSD. On the outside he is also battling RSD or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. It’s deep, chronic leg pain from an army injury that forces him to use a cane or a wheelchair. It was also a career ender for this former military man.

Some experts are convinced exercise is the best medicine for both Jeff and Ben.

Dr. John Mayer, a  clinical psychologist, says lowering the stress hormone cortisol is key to calming the body and lowering stress. He also says, PTSD is a condition-not a life sentence.

“It’s not that hard to diagnose,” he says. “But for the individual it’s a hard thing to accept.”

Enter Team Red, White & Blue,  a national non-profit is zeroing in on exercise  to tackle the disorder. US servicemen and women, active duty or not, can join for free and partner up with volunteer community members.

And all year round, through all sorts of sports and social activities, teams or groups encourage, motivate, even distract PTSD sufferers from their pain.

The physical and social activities help those forget about and maybe even drive away the pain—inside and out.

Joining Team Red White & Blue is free. Local partnerships and sponsors help deliver for the organization—making outings, sporting events, and athletics possible. Volunteer community members—civilians are also a major factor in its success.

For more about Team Red White & Blue and other organization mentioned in this story, log on to:

For more information on the organizations and people featured, log on to:

Team Red White & Blue’s website

Dr John Mayer’s website

Chicago Rowing Foundation’s website

Vigilant Elite Training (VET)

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