Bob Curry is being recognized as a Champion of Change for his dedication to service and his continued support for efforts to: end homelessness, boost employment and treat mental health disparities for fellow veterans.
In 2003, while I sat with other Vietnam veterans in the waiting room at the VA for a PTSD group to begin, we found ourselves fixated on the televisions in the room. The screens, filled with images of a younger generation at war in Afghanistan and building up for an invasion of Iraq, made us re-experience the same tension of going into battle that this newest generation of warriors a half a world away were facing. We agreed this newest generation of warriors deserved better then we received, and we needed to do something about it.We had become a generation who lost over fifty thousand to combat, three times that number to suicide after the war’s end, and over ½ million veterans who became incarcerated years after our war. There are thousands of broken families, relationships, and addictions that become reality for the service men and women who returned. You’ll begin to see the true human cost of war that families and their communities, our communities, will forever bear. I knew these younger brothers and sisters fighting our newest wars who made it home would face a similar path, a path strewn with unseen, unanticipated, and unexplored challenges that would take more lives than the wars themselves unless action was taken.
Dryhootch (“hootch,” a place we lived in combat, and “dry” meaning no alcohol or drugs)is a veterans’ nonprofit with a mission to serve veterans and their families, while educating the community on the untold number of issues facing our veterans today. Recognizing PTSD and its links to drug and/or alcohol abuse, Dryhootch is a safe, drug and alcohol free, peer-to-peer location for veterans to receive assistance. Dryhootch meets the veteran at a crossroad and helps to assist the veteran in making healthy choices. Additionally, Dryhootch partners with the VA, government agencies, our courts, charities and nonprofits, and others to provide specific, meaningful support to assist the veteran in developing tools for their own success. It is with a desire to partner and collaborate that Dryhootch has been able to expand its service to two locations in Milwaukee and one in Madison. We also have partnership with the City of Chicago, the National Veterans Art Museum, and the Warrior Art Project to open the Veterans Cultural Center of Chicago later this year. At the end of May, will are planning a collaborative project with the New York area VA Hospitals.
Dryhootch’s unique peer-to-peer approach provides opportunities for veterans of all communities to come together in a safe, substance free environment, to reconnect and support one another. It is outside of the VA or military control that provides an alternative to veterans seeking help, but reticent to pursue assistance through VA, military, or other government provided centers. We guarantee confidentiality and do not share information on veterans or their families who seek our assistance unless specifically and appropriately necessary and approved by the veteran.
From its creation, Dryhootch has championed the peer-to-peer approach. As opposed to other approaches for veteran care, Dryhootch provides no clinical therapy. Rather, Dryhootch creates and facilitates vet-to-vet strategies, pairing veterans with similar experiences in small groups or in 1:1 peer coaching. This approach is utilized to deal with PTSD, coping skills, family reintegration, relapse prevention, substance abuse, and assistance to families surviving the suicide of a returning veteran. We partner with agencies providing support to combat veteran homelessness and unemployment. The Wisconsin Bar Association provides free, biweekly legal help for veterans at Dryhootch locations. We partnered with Americorps and local courts to help veterans currently involved in the criminal justice system.
Dryhootch partners with other medical care providers, government agencies, and other veteran care providers by hosting “Warrior Summits” at locations around the state. The goal is to help educate the community and private healthcare professionals on the unique needs of veterans and their families. The intent is to bring all available resources to educate each other on how they can assist veterans, as well as educate the community on what they can do or where to go for help if they know of a veteran in need. It is in this way Dryhootch strives to bring resources together and provide clear, succinct information to the professional community.
The coffee shop aspect of Dryhootch, as well as community outreach, has provided opportunities to educate the community on the myriad of issues our vets struggle with and provides an opportunity to educate the civilian population about veteran issues, removes stigma from uninformed sources, and provides a collaborative community spirit, while simultaneously providing a substance free environment for veterans and their families to socialize, reconnect, and gather information to meet their reintegration needs. Dryhootch also uses its website and ability to video conference to link veterans from around the region. We are focusing our efforts to expand peer to peer connections by utilizing technology to link vets in the community through an online forum that would provide veteran assistance 24 hours a day.
Dryhootch is a place where veterans, their families, and the community can reconnect. These are our sons and daughters, husband and wives, mothers and fathers. They have all earned the right to the best care possible for the sacrifices they and their families have made to keep our country free.
Robert Curry is a disabled veteran of Vietnam & Laos and is the founder and President of Dryhootch.org, a nonprofit dedicated to “helping the veteran and their family who survived the war, survive the peace.”