Veterans course offers healing from ‘moral injuries’


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After a successful first course, the Trinity Anglican Church in Rochester, NH is hosting another 12-week course to help combat veterans and their families heal the “spiritual and moral injuries of war” later this month and is seeking participants.

It’s called Reboot Combat Recovery and it’s being led by the Rev. Father Matthew Mirabile, rector of the church, Sgt. 1st Class Brian Vespa of the Army National Guard, and retired Marine Dan Bricker. Bricker, who is a counselor for veterans, was a participant in the first course held in March.

While Reboot Combat Recovery focused on combat veterans, Mirabile said the free course is also open to first responders, who often come into contact with tragic circumstances as a regular course of action in their profession.

Bruce Larrabee, who served 29 years in the military, including time in the Army, Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, said he joined the first Reboot in March to see what the class was like and maybe recommend it to younger combat veterans. Larrabee, who did four tours in Vietnam as well as tours in the Gulf War, said, “I expected to go once or twice.” But he was drawn to come back each week and completed the 12-week course along with the others.

“I discovered a few things and resolved a few things with the help of the other guys,” he said. Larabee said he reflected on things he hadn’t thought about since he was a young man in Vietnam some 50 years ago. “I was surprised that I was the one being helped,” he said. “Anything can happen to anybody when you put your heart into it.”

There were combat veterans from Vietnam through the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Scott Lombardo, who runs Veterans Martial Arts Training, or V-MAT, which offers free courses to veterans in Portsmouth, also attended. Lombardo is not a veteran, but he asked if he could sit in as a way to better understand the perspectives of those who might be in his classes.

“They all welcomed me into the program,” Lombardo said. “It was a pretty amazing experience even for me not being a combat veteran.”

Lombardo has had his share of trauma. He had a tumor that ruptured in his abdomen at the age of 26 and was given less than a 10 percent chance of leaving the hospital alive some 25 years ago.

“I went in thinking about learning a bunch of things to help other people and I learned a bunch of crap about myself,” he said. “It’s definitely insightful into things that you can do to help yourself move along with your own stresses and your own traumas,” he said.

While the course is faith based, “It’s definitely not like going to church, that’s for sure,” Lombardo said.

Bricker said the moral injuries experienced by combat veterans often get swept aside.

“It became very clear there were a lot of moral injuries that occurred in combat situations. That resonated with me,” he said. “The program did a great job addressing the moral injury of combat.”

The program is free and includes dinner and child care, and spouses are welcome to attend. Bricker said every meal in the first session was “incredible,” and that was one of the keys to building camaraderie in the group.

For more information, call Mirabile at (603) 332- 4121 or email fr.matt.mirabile@trinity-anglicanchurch.org.

By Brian Early, Portsmouth Herald, N.H.

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©2017 Portsmouth Herald, N.H., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.