About 70 people came out to Town Hall on Veterans Day to attend a special veterans presentation. Veterans, who have participated in the War Horse Creek program at Living Free Animal Sanctuary, came out to share their experiences with other veterans and civilians alike.
“Sometimes the best way to help veterans is to just listen and let them talk without turning away, and without judgment,” said War Horse Creek Founder Randall Harris.
During the three-hour-long event, multiple veterans from different generations took the opportunity to share their stories. Emotions began to rise to the surface for many of the veterans as they sifted through memories. The audience stayed silent, allowing the speakers to be authentic with their feelings.
Marine Corp Veteran Ricardo Mendoza answered a question given to him by Harris with regards to his time in the Marine Corp.
Harris asked: “Do you have any regrets?”
“I don’t have any regrets because I even learn from my mistakes,” said Mendoza. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t felt a lot of pain and shared a lot of tears, but living with regret is very unhealthy for the mind and soul. Live in the moment and value what you have because you never know when it’ll be gone.”
“There need to be opportunities for veterans to talk in settings where there is understanding and acceptance,” said Dr. Harold “Doc” Martin, a U.S. Army veteran.
Martin is a professor at Pasadena City College and teaches Boots to Books, a class that helps veterans adjust to being college students while providing academic and psychological support. The more support there is available for veterans, the more successful they can be at reintegrating back into a life many civilians take for granted.
Simple everyday situations for a civilian may not be the same for a veteran. Their training teaches them to be alert at all times and some simple situations can be viewed as threatening.
“I personally wouldn’t want to live in a society that didn’t act abnormally after being exposed to abnormality,” said Martin. “People who suffer for a cause and come back with emotional problems and distress — this is evidence of our basic humanity. Instead of shying away from them, that image needs to be corrected and we need to support them.”
With War Horse Creek now available for veterans, it gives them one more platform to begin and learn deep healing. As the veterans spoke about their experience at War Horse, many said that at first they were intimidated by these 1,200-pound rescued mustangs.
U.S. Navy Veteran Evelyn Trinidad told the audience with a quivering voice as emotions started to take hold: “I was more afraid than anything else to be out there with these animals, but I remember feeling true happiness with these animals and being able to cry also. It was the best weekend I’ve ever had in my life.”
Like mirrors, the horses show the veterans where they need to change to be healthy and whole again while simultaneously showing the veterans what they need to do to help the mustangs as well. The emotional connection between human and horse was almost immediate for some veterans — breaking down the invisible walls that were built in a way that only the veterans can understand.
At the end of the evening, the newspaper asked Harris how he felt the event went replying, “I think it went really great for our first time. Those guys got up there and put it out there. It was important for people to see it and to understand how beneficial it is for them … Trauma is universal and at the end of the day it’s something we all deal with. If we can create holistic programs that will help with trauma, then I think it will benefit society in general.”
For more information about War Horse Creek, you can visit https://warhorsecreek.org/ and for more information about Boots to Books, visit https://pasadena.edu/news-and-events/news/boots-to-books.php.