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Class aimed at combat veterans, families

Foster's Daily Democrat - 2/27/2017

Feb. 27--ROCHESTER -- A program designed to help combat veterans and their families heal the "spiritual and moral injuries of war" is seeking participants for the 12-week course that begins next week.

It's called Reboot Combat Recovery, and it's being led by the Rev. Fr. Matt Mirabile and Sgt. 1st Class Brian Vespa of the Army National Guard. Mirabile, the rector of the Trinity Anglican Church on Rochester Hill Road where the program will take place, said it is the first time the program is being held in the Northeast.

"We have a lot of vets in our church," he said. "We have a strong desire to support our vets, and we feel this is a way to do it."

Mirabile is not a veteran, but Vespa is. He has spent 28 years in the Army National Guard, with 18 years of active duty. He has also spent time as an instructor, and he feels comfortable with leading the course. Vespa was mobilized numerous times while with the Guard but was never deployed into combat. But he said he understands many of the challenges of being away from family for an extended period of time and the challenges of reintegrating into civilian life.

"It's difficult to be a soldier, whether you're 400 miles away or 4,000 miles away," he said. "The transition period (into civilian life) is not an easy one."

Mirabile said the program requires at least one of the instructors to be a veteran, and he asked Vespa, who is a member of the church, to participate. The free class, which also provides free child care and dinner, covers topics such as the roots of trauma, be free (from false guilt), the cost of unforgiveness, when you've loved and lost and depression and suicide, according to Reboot Recovery website.

While the program that begins at 7 p.m.March 2, is held in a church, church-going is not a requirement, nor is religion central to the weekly two-hour class.

Vespa likened it to the monthly chaplain's breakfasts held for those on active duty. The breakfast has opening prayers, but the rest is focused on positive affirmation. "It's not heavy on the religion," he said.

Vespa is a church-going guy, but not consistently. "I'm not a guy who believes he needs to go to church every Sunday," he said. Mirabile doesn't pressure him and his family either, he said.

Reboot Combat Recovery began in 2011 by occupational therapist Dr. Jenny Owens who served military families at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. In 2014, the organization began partnering with nonprofits and churches around the country offering the program, according to its website, www.rebootrecovery.com. The website claims it has had more than 1,000 graduates across the country, and none of the graduates have committed suicide. The program boasts a 76 percent completion rate. A Department of Veterans Affairs study last year found that an average of 20 veterans commits suicide each day.

Vespa said he reviewed the program as well as showed it to VA counselors in Somersworth and Portsmouth, who he said approved of the content.

"It covers a lot of stuff that you see if you're going to the VA," he said, noting that the class doesn't take the place of seeing the VA counselors, Vespa said. "(The counselors) see it as being a good thing."

Mirabile said the class may be able to help those who struggle with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

"A good candidate (for the program) is someone that is simply having a hard time being back," he said. Some may struggle with meaning in life after being on the battlefield. When someone is out on the battlefield, it means something, like protecting fellow service members. "Now you're back and all you're doing is delivering milk. You may experience a lack of meaning. That's a moral wound, spiritual wound," he said.

The class is free and dinner and child care are provided. Register at rebootrecovery.com/join. For information, contact Mirabile at 332-4121.

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(c)2017 the Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.)

Visit the Foster's Daily Democrat (Dover, N.H.) at www.fosters.com

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