Warrior Summit Presentations

Keynote & Plenary Addresses

Soul Injury: Liberating Unmourned Loss and Unforgiven Guilt by Ralph Ozmun

The mental and emotional injuries that accompany trauma are readily identified. Less recognized are the insidious wounds that occur when we deny the truth of our own experience, becoming separated from our “real” self.
 Whether traumatic or insidious, these “soul injuries” cause an emotional pain that cuts us off from the essence of our being. Connecting with the part of self generating the pain, paradoxically, restores wholeness. Thus, soul restoration includes learning how to re-own, re-home, and revitalize scattered pieces of self by cultivating personal intimacy with the part of self carrying our emotional pain. The basis for addressing “soul injury” originated with a group of VA hospice nurses who cared for 10,000 dying Veterans. The nurses witnessed “soul injuries” firsthand as they surfaced unbidden on combat Veterans’ deathbeds. Let “warrior wisdom” show you how the heart can be disarmed through love, forgiveness, and self-compassion, starting a process that “restoreths the soul.”
Ralph Ozmun, from Opus Peace, will also be conducting a breakout presentation titled “Forgiveness: Re-Vitalizing the Wounded Soul.”

Homecoming: Warrior? Civilian? Who Am I Now? by Cynthia Rasmussen

Explore the challenges faced by veterans as they re-integrate into civilian and family life. This transition can be difficult, even daunting, to the military warriors as they struggle to find a balance in their identity and daily lives. Whether veteran, family member, friend or service provider, you will gain tools to deal with transition stress and support the journey veterans, their families and their communities will share.

Cynthia Rasmussen, RN, MSN, CANP, is a retired LTC from the US Army Reserves with decades of experience addressing the mental health needs of veterans.

It works if you work it! by Robyn Bradley & Anthony Chavez

Veteran Anthony Chavez shares his journey of transformation and healing through trauma and grief. By bravely discussing his experiences, Anthony hopes to offer other Veterans and their families hope and encouragement that recovery for those affected by trauma and their service and sacrifice is possible. Robyn Bradley, LCSW and Anthony discuss the importance of a holistic approach to healing with the mind, body, spirit connection. Their conversation will examine how utilizing a strengths based, collaborative approach across multiple systems including formal and informal supports was instrumental. Specific Services available to Service Members will be discussed including his Chain of Command, the WI Army Service Member Support Division, the Veteran’s Administration, Mental Health Providers, the Legal and Court System, his Family and Faith Community.

Robyn Bradley, LCSW, a Director of Psychological Health Services for the WI Army National Guard, Service Member Support Division, and Anthony Chavez, a Veteran with 25 years of military experience and multiple deployments.

Breakout Presentations: Session One

Warrior Summit attendees will have the opportunity to choose from one of the following presentations for the first breakout session.

A Team Approach to Communalize PTS(D), Moral Injury, and the Ripple Effects

Presenters: John Sippola, LTC (ret), M.Div. Association of Professional Chaplains & Sara Lund, M.Div. Association of Professional Chaplains
Description: In this workshop, you will learn a unique team approach to communalize trauma and moral injury in safe, trustworthy ways from members of our training team. This unique team approach cultivates a safe, non-judgmental, communal climate, fosters individual and relational healing and growth, and promotes good boundaries. Vets and Friends teams and groups continue to expand the network by reaching out to other trauma survivors and to the community-at-large.
1. Name three of the unique features of the team approach.
2. Describe three of the unique ways a team communalizes trauma and moral injury in a group,
3. Identify three lessons learned from clergy, therapists, and chaplains in dealing with trauma at retreats.
4. Name three benefits of a diverse, versatile team.

Forgiveness: Re-Vitalizing the Wounded Soul

Presenter: Ralph Ozmun
Description: This provocative presentation will challenge attendees’ concepts about the forgiveness process. They will learn about the essential steps to facilitate the forgiveness process, common mistakes that are made that interfere with forgiveness, pseudo-forgiveness, as well as the relationship between irrational guilt and helplessness. Tools to promote healing will be addressed and forgiveness exercises provided, including self-reflection, therapeutic letter writing, and integrative rituals.
1. Define forgiveness, its value, and the effects of non-forgiveness
2. Contrast guilt from shame
3. Articulate common mistakes to be avoided in the forgiveness process
4. Identify processes that facilitate forgiveness
5. Identify tools that facilitate forgiveness

S.A.V.E (Signs of suicide, Asking the question, Validating feelings and Encouraging and Expediting care)

Presenter: Abbey Bernier, MSW, LCSW
Description: SAVE is a gatekeeper training provided by VA suicide prevention coordinators to veterans and those who serve veterans. The goal of the training is to provide education on how to identify the warning signs of suicide and ways to intervene and help someone in crisis.  We focus on the unique risk factors in the veteran population but the information provided will be applicable to all individuals.
Upon completion of this workshop, participants will be able to:
1. Identify a Veteran who may be at risk for suicide
2. Respond with care and compassion if you encounter a Veteran who is in suicidal crisis
3. Utilize a safety plan
4. Provide lethal means safety counseling

Trauma Recovery Happens with the Healing Warrior Hearts Program

Presenter: Dianne Young, BS – Management, Trauma Recovery Facilitation Training, Reiki Practitioner, Distinguished Toastmaster
Description: Introduction of the Healing Warrior Hearts (HWH) Program that provides weekend retreats for Veterans to heal from emotional trauma such as PTSD, the wounds of war, survivors guilt, military sexual trauma, etc. There is also a weekend exclusive for LGBTQ+ Veterans and a Couples Retreat. (https://www.healingwarriorhearts.org/)
Presenter will share her story of recovery of PTSD/depression caused by the military sexual trauma she experienced to provide hope for those still struggling or know others that are.
Upon completion of this program, participants will:
1. Understand the basics of how the brain responds to trauma.
2. Recognize the survival behaviors caused by trauma that keep people suck in their trauma.
3. Be able manage emotions with 2 different tools explained and practiced during the presentation.
4. Have tools and information that has been known to prevent suicide.

Breakout Presentations: Session Two

Warrior Summit attendees will have the opportunity to choose from one of the following presentations for the second breakout session.

Finding the Calm: A No BS Guide to Meditation

Presenters: Melissa Schofield and Tanya Biermann
Description: For as long as there has been written history, there has been meditation. You don’t have to be a Buddhist monk sitting on a mountain top to meditate. You don’t need to subscribe to any specific religion or lifestyle to meditate. It is available to everyone, it’s free, and you don’t need any fancy tools to do it. Meditation is a mental exercise that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. At its core, meditation is about learning to focus your mind in order to cultivate a sense of peace and calm in your everyday life. Those who meditate regularly report increased levels of happiness, patience, and acceptance. They also report lower levels of stress, frustration, anxiety, and depression.
In this presentation we will discuss what meditation is and what it isn’t. We will talk about how stress can affect you physically and emotionally. We will explore the many benefits of meditation and talk about the power of your breath. You will learn practical strategies for using meditation to feel better physically and emotionally.
1. What meditation is and what it isn’t.
2. How to counter-act the effects of stress on the body.
3. Explore the benefits of meditation.
4. Discover the power of your breath.
5. Learn practical strategies for finding calm every day.

The Suicide of Superman: Why Military Veterans are at a Higher Risk for Suicide

Presenter: Michael McBride, MD, MS
Description: Suicide of military Veterans has been described as an epidemic. Despite massive efforts by the Department of Defense and the VA, the rate of suicide has not improved as expected.  This presentation explores how moral injury and loss of identity contribute to mental health decay and suicide.
1. Explain how military/Veteran culture promote suicide as an honorable option.
2. List the sacrifices of military service.
3. Using the story of Superman, describe how the loss of power leads to identity crisis and despair.
4. Discuss ideas for a community response in the prevention of Veteran suicide.

Using Veteran’s Strengths to Serve Their Faith Community

Presenter: Domenick Tirabassi, Master of Science in Clinical Psychology
Description: According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics (2015), approximately 94% of Veterans in the United States identify with a religious tradition.  Religious and spiritual beliefs and practices have been demonstrated to improved well-being, coping, and reduced psychological distress. Psychological researchers have identified a need for more nuanced approaches to providing religious and spiritual support to Veterans in the VA healthcare system due to the benefits of religious involvement and the high prevalence rates of religiosity among Veterans (Boucher, Steinhauser, & Johnson, 2018). However, there are challenges in developing effective ways to support Veterans’ religious and spiritual beliefs and practices. This presentation describes how mental health providers can use discoveries from positive psychology to enhance religious and spiritual engagement in the Veteran population.
The tradition of positive psychology can be traced throughout the history of philosophy, theology, and psychology, as it concerns itself with questions of human good, strengths, and optimal functioning. Over the past three decades, researchers have worked diligently to deepen our understanding of strengths (Lopez, 2008), develop ways to measure strengths (Lopez & Snyder, 2003), and help communities and individuals put their strengths into practice (Niemiec, 2017). Veterans often transition from military to civilian life with strengths that can be utilized in religious settings as a means of connecting with their faith communities and consequently reaping the benefits of religious involvement. This presentation will provide an overview of (1) the psychological benefits of religious and spiritual engagement, (2) advancements in the classification and assessment of strengths, and (3) practical ways for clinicians to help Veterans apply their strengths in their faith communities as a means of supporting their religious and spiritual involvement.
1. Participants will be able to enumerate the psychological benefits associated with religious and spiritual practices.
2. Participants will be able to identify the different types of strengths and commonly used strengths assessment tools.   
3. Participants will become better equipped to aid Veterans in applying their strengths in the context of their faith communities.

Veteran Community-Academic Engagement – A Ten Year Journey

Presenters: Zeno Franco, PhD & Mark Flower
Description: This workshop will summarize the key stages of development of a decade long effort between major university and healthcare systems (including VA and private hospitals) and key veteran community agencies in the Milwaukee area to facilitate inter-agency relationships that improve access to care for US military veterans. At each stage, managing multiple perspectives, values, and priorities emerged that had to be carefully addressed to allow the collective effort to move forward.
STAGE 1: Early on, the partnership focused on informal data collection to better understand veterans’ perspectives on gaps in community services, overcoming key differences in clinical vs. community priorities, and gathering grant support and practical resources to further the work. Outcomes of this stage included deeper mutual understanding between the academic and veteran community partners as well as a successful large scale grants. STAGE 2: At the middle point in the journey, the partnership expanded to include additional university and community agency partners. Issues around scaling activity up, partnership governance, and executing a more complex, formalized research agenda emerged. During this time period, the partnership helped to found a broad, stage-wide coalition focused on veteran health and published several studies using a Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach. STAGE 3: At present, the partnership is focused on disseminating veteran peer support training materials that were collaboratively created, initiating and contributing to national policy conversations on veteran engagement strategies within the VA (e.g. CIDER, HSR&D, COIN), as well as at the regional (VISN level), state (e.g. WI veteran peer respite) and county levels (e.g. veteran court systems). At this stage, further alignment was also created between the veteran health coalition and the VA Community Veteran Engagement Board (CVEB) program, while ensuring local, community control was retained. The partnership published a scholarly journal special issue on veteran collaborative research and is continuing to facilitate research opportunities for academics interested in developing authentic, bi-directional collaborations with veterans and the agencies that serve them. The intent of this presentation is to provide a detailed summary both of the relationally driven aspects and technical components of large veteran specific partnerships and coalitions to encourage other groups to replicate and expand on this approach.
1. Participants will be able to identify and anticipate key “stuck points” in the relationships between veteran agencies and larger university and healthcare partners.
2. Participants will consider ways to apply the approach and lessons learned from this partnership to their own context and sketch out ways to improve multi-agency collaborations for veteran services in their own community.
3. Participants will be able to describe key factors that facilitate open, constructive personal and agency level conversations that allow differences in worldviews, priorities and values to be comprehensively addressed as a key element in developing trust and mutuality.