Operation Tohidu at Melwood offers free retreat for Veterans


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Operation Tohidu®, from a Cherokee word meaning peace of mind, body, and spirit, is a five-day intensive retreat at Melwood Veterans Services 108-acre Retreat Center in Nanjemoy, Maryland.

Each retreat serves 8-16 participants and is free to them. The retreats cater to all Veterans and service members as well as their spouses, partners, or caregivers on couples’ retreats. Retreats are for those who experienced PTSD, mild-TBI, anxiety, depression, moral injury or military sexual trauma.arrowhead graphic for operation tohidu

When Veterans arrive, they commonly feel hesitant about interacting and getting out of their comfort zone. However, for most, the opportunity to reconnect with like-minded people is what motivates them to come.

Over the course of the five-day retreat, the group participates in outdoor activities, introspective exercises and therapeutic pursuits. These include yoga, acupuncture, and art therapy. Confidence-building physical challenges and group discussions are combined with proven techniques for the self-management of symptoms, stressors, and responses to reduce anxiety, alleviate depression and reframe traumatic experiences.

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Veterans work together in groups during a physical challenge at Operation Tohidu.

A big part of the success of the program is the group dynamic. Each group shares the experience of overcoming physical obstacles and challenges. There’s also activities designed to promote emotional recovery and peace with the past.

Staff members include certified recreational professionals and licensed clinical social workers. Many serve in part because of their own personal experience working through service-related trauma. Building on the shared camaraderie of military service, participants work to build a “new normal.” In fact, 74% of past participants say they remain in contact with other Operation Tohidu® alumni.

Retired Brigadier General David Blackledge heads Melwood Veterans Services, and is pleased with the results: 86% of the participants have reported a healthier, more positive view of themselves and cited progress toward a personal goal because of the retreat.

Blackledge said of those surveyed, 84% recognized that what they learned at the retreat helped them develop healthier relationships. He said over 90% of alumni say they continue to use at least one coping strategy learned at Operation Tohidu®.

In the last 24 months, Operation Tohidu® has served over 350 Veterans. In 2020, Melwood Veterans Services hopes to serve more than 500.

More information

For more information, please connect with Melwood Veterans Services on social media.

To apply to attend an in-person or a virtual retreat, visit www.operationtohidu.org


The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA

Author

VAntagePoint Contributor

— VAntage Point Contributors provide insight and perspective on a wide range of Veterans issues. If you’d like to contribute a story to VAntage Point, learn how you can submit a guest blog at http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/how-to-submit-a-guest-post/

Comments

  1. Wanda Jackson    

    Hello, my veteran husband is very interested in this retreat. Please email me anytime and when you will be doing the trip to Maryland retreat. Yes, I would attend also. Send your newsletters also. Thanks so much

  2. Frederick Milton Olsen III    

    Please send me more information about qualifying for your retreat. I am from Wisconsin, but willing to travel for a helpful experience.

  3. Frederick Milton Olsen III    

    I would be interested to hear more about your program. It may fit my needs.

  4. Ramon L. Reyes    

    I heard about this retreat Operation Tohidu. My question is if your from out of State like myself can we apply for this? I’m from California. I have PTSD.

  5. Jane E Ryan    

    I’ve just read your article about retreats for veterans with PTSD, etc., held in Maryland. This sounds very interesting to me and would appreciate being sent more information about the programs you offer.

    I am a single, Viet Nam era, disabled veteran with PTSD, depression and post-status TBIs so believe I could qualify.

    I look forward to receiving more about your programs. Thank you.

    Sincerely, Jane Ryan

    1. Travis Rahill    

      Jane,
      thanks for your comments! Yes, you would qualify to attend. Please visit our website, http://www.operationtohidu.org, to fill out an application if you haven’t already done so.
      Travis Rahill

  6. Deborah Bonura    

    The retreat appears to only be offered for couples? What about those suffering from PTSD due to MST that are living their lives alone? Total isolation. Sure could use a retreat like this. Thanks.

    1. Travis Rahill    

      Deborah,
      For the past three years, we have offered (roughly) 2 men’s, 2 couple’s and 8 women’s retreats a year. out of the 8 women’s retreats, 4 or 5 of them have been for Military Sexual Trauma survivors. Here is video from our YouTube channel about our program. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQgL4VZwuJY&t=3s
      Travis Rahill

  7. Chase R. Hood    

    Not sure if I would qualify or would, in your eyes, need something like this. Although I did something that causes me nightmares to this day (fewer in frequency now), I also lost my fiancee at the same time. This may not be trauma in your eyes, and I would respect being unaccepted due to someone needing it more. I am interested though, would just need dates to make sure I can do it financially. Yes, that means can I afford to take time off from my work, I realize that the program is done for free.

    1. Travis Rahill    

      Chase,
      I understand the challenges of taking time off of work. That is one of the biggest barriers for folks to attend our program. For government employees, we have had a some ask to use their sick time and had it approved. We have also had current service members get TDY/TAD orders so that the can attend without taking leave.

  8. Tracy Lane    

    This sounds awesome, is there any other retreats like this in Rhode Island, Connecticut or Massachusetts?

    Maryland is too far for me.

    Thank you for your service.

    Tracy Lane

    1. Travis Rahill    

      Tracy,
      We currently only offer our program at our location in Maryland. We have had plenty of folks from New England attend though. Check out the Greater Boston Veterans Collaborative (http://www.collaborate.vet/). They should be able to point you in the right direction.
      Travis

  9. Brent McLean    

    I would like some more information please. I’m a disabled veteran with 90 percent disability due to ptsd,tbi, and serious depression. Besides just getting my new rating I’m also 100 percent unemployment. I really think I could benefit from a program such as this

  10. Ralph Eckardt    

    I am a vet (1955-1959) and after the service I ended up with a Doctor’s degree in Social Work, DSW. I have just finished looking at your page and my heart is just thumping to see how you are reaching out to help vets. I am 84 now and slowly fading, but if I were younger I would really want to try to be part of your program, It sounds like it offers so much hope! Thanks for all you do.

    1. Kevin Jelley    

      Ralph, ‘love your response and attitude! I just read the program description myself and agree that it seems like a great program for vets. You hang in there. I realize that you’re in a challenging phase of life, but I bet you still kick a little ass, so to speak, now and then. Hooyah. Kevin

  11. Susannah Bartley    

    I would like to attend. I have CPTSD, Anxiety disorder, major depressive disorder, alcoholism.
    I see a Psychologist and Psychiatrist at the Coatesville VAMC. I am 70% service connected, deemed unemployable, getting 100%.
    Someday I would like to work again but I’m can’t yet. Maybe you can help!?

  12. Belita Lee Edwards    

    I am interested in the Retreat

    1. Thomas Jenkins    

      Dear Sir, when is the next meeting? I think I might be interested to go as everyone comments here that I read sound helpful. Could you please tell me when the next meeting will be. Do you supply transportation like a bus to get there? I would appreciate this info. Thank you for your help. Sincerely, Thomas Jenkins

  13. David Girrbach    

    Hi there, I read about the retreat in September, and I would love to be able to go. My only question is in regards to transportation there. Do you have to find your own way there or is it provided?

  14. Jim    

    Retreats are great! I’ve attended other retreats and workshops for personal development (Two vision quests, three large group retreats and many multi-day retreats focusing on health and wellness.) and have found that they do
    help change perspectives and the experiences are mostly good. For those who are reluctant to attend this, I’d suggest you go. Don’t miss out. The group dynamics and experiences are meant to be in a safe and nurturing environment. Also, the food has always been absolutely incredible.

  15. Philip VonSteinmann    

    Is this Retreat only in Maryland or is it also in other states? Sounds like a good thing for many.

Comments are closed.