Drug, Mental Treatment Facility for Veterans By Veterans Opens near Deland

Drug, mental treatment facility for veterans, by veterans opens near DeLand


By Katie Kustura, The Daytona Beach News-Journal

Down a crumbly road lined with tall pine trees off U.S. 17-92 is a place that is the first of its kind — a recovery program for, and run by, military veterans.

Heroes’ Mile, which began accepting patients this month in a facility just outside DeLand, is looking to save the lives of those who have seen the worst by providing several types of therapies and services in an environment run by people who have shared in the experience of war.

One of the first patients, who asked to remain anonymous, was still detoxing last week, having arrived at the facility after flying into Florida just eight hours earlier from New Jersey. The man said he’s been in and out of Alcoholics Anonymous for years. He’s also tried other treatment centers, but found it hard to relate to people who can’t understand what he’s been through as a military veteran.

The 43-year-old, who wasn’t ready to go into detail about his deployments or former military responsibilities in information technology, got choked up as he recalled the conversation he had with Heroes’ Mile staff.

“The message they gave me was just unbelievable,” the Marine Corps veteran said. “I talk to these guys, and I don’t feel like I gotta hold anything back.”

Veterans finding the strength to discuss their issues and what they’ve been through is just one of the goals at the facility, said John Picciano, the CEO of Oglethorpe Inc. Picciano is one of the founders of Heroes’ Mile, which is owned and managed by Oglethorpe, a national hospital management company based in Tampa.

“He’s a hero,” Picciano said of the Marine Corps veteran. “So we want to be able to not only recognize him as a hero, but give him a chance at life again.”

While Picciano isn’t a veteran himself — he was drafted but his service was deferred when he went to seminary — he’s spent decades working with people, including many veterans, who have substance abuse and mental health issues.

He founded Heroes’ Mile with retired U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Lennox Jr., a former West Point superintendent and Oglethorpe’s veteran ambassador.

“We are creating a safe environment for them, because everybody’s a vet; they got your back,” Picciano said. “If you go into a regular rehab, nobody has your back.”

Creating such an environment was about more than hiring veterans to help veterans. Despite the intensity of what would be taking place, the facility needed to be warm and inviting and feel like a home, not cold and institutional like military barracks.

“We’re not preparing them to go to war, we’re preparing them to go to life,” Picciano said.

“Opening up is the beginning of solving the problem,” Lennox said in a phone interview.

The services available at Heroes’ Mile include: detoxification and medical supervision, individual and daily group counseling, post-traumatic stress and military-sexual trauma counseling, art therapy, comfort pet therapy, eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, spiritual healing, job preparation and training, residential and intensive outpatient programs and more.

Picciano hopes to incorporate more holistic treatments in the future since Gov. Ron DeSantis recently approved a bill from Sen. Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) that will allow for a study of alternative treatment options for veterans who have PTSD or a traumatic brain injury.

“When all is said and done, the success of these alternatives will reunite veterans with their families and expand their opportunities,” Wright said in a news release. “We cannot thank our veterans and their families enough for their sacrifice and selfless service to our nation and we must continue to support them to ensure they have the best quality of life.”

Heroes’ Mile also has common areas indoors and outdoors where veterans can gather and watch TV or chat.

“This is normal, you sit here, you relax, you have a cup of coffee and you talk,” Picciano said, pointing to one of the outdoor tables and chairs shaded by an umbrella. “You don’t have to be under a bridge using drugs.”

There’s also an outdoor area with exercise equipment and a small garden area with a rock fountain and a bench for veterans who need to take a quiet moment or meditate. Picciano said the property will eventually have a rope course or some other type of athletic activity on the unused acreage.

Oglethorpe is currently covering the cost of treatment for veterans who get a referral from their Veterans Affairs office, said Navy veteran Ryan Barrows, the lead admissions and training specialist and outreach minister. Once the facility has at least a few more patients, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations will look at renewing the contract for the property, which previously housed the Darryl Strawberry Recovery Center. When the contract is approved, veterans will be able to get into Heroes’ Mile with health insurance coverage.

The plan for the future is to open up additional Heroes’ Mile locations, which could be stand-alone facilities or dedicated wings or floors in other buildings, and eventually present the concept to congress in the hopes of getting the VA to incorporate Heroes’ Mile and work on grants for more facilities, Lennox said.

“If it works here, and we really think it will, anybody can do it,” Lennox said.

He said there are no plans to patent the concept as they want to see other companies duplicate the program and help as many veterans as possible.



Happy Fourth of July America! July 4, 2019

Editor’s Note: On behalf of Paul and Muffin Vallely and the staff at the Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund, we wish you and all your family and friends a Happy Fourth of July as you all celebrate the creation of the greatest Republic in the history of mankind.




American Sniper’s wife Taya Kyle’s American Spirit: Profiles in Resilience, Courage, and Faith

Editor’s Note: The staff at The Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund are sharing this article from our friends at Fox News because we feel it is very important and because there are just too many good ones.

American Sniper’s wife Taya Kyle recalls how she leaned on faith after Chris Kyle’s death: ‘It was a journey’

By Stephanie Nolasco/ Fox News


Taya Kyle, the widow of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, wants to celebrate everyday Americans making a difference.

After losing her beloved husband in 2013, the 44-year-old entered a period of immense pain and grief but found solace in learning the stories of others who persevered after facing incredible obstacles.

In addition to relying on family and friends for much-needed support and healing, Kyle was compelled to team up with her trusted collaborator Jim DeFelice, co-author of her late husband’s memoir, to write “American Spirit: Profiles in Resilience, Courage and Faith.” The book details the lives of more than 30 remarkable Americans who have done extraordinary things for their community and our nation.

Chris’ 2012 autobiography “American Sniper” detailed how he became the most prolific marksman in the U.S. during the Iraq War. It also explored the personal pains he endured during the war, including the death of two SEAL teammates. A year later, Chris was shot dead in 2013 at a gun range at age 38. In 2014, the best-selling book inspired a film by the same title, which starred Bradley Cooper as Chris and Sienna Miller as his spouse. “American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood, was nominated for six Oscars in 2015 and won one.

Kyle spoke to Fox News about the one memory of her husband that’s been on her mind, how her family is doing today and what readers can expect from “American Spirit.”



Fox News: What’s one memory of Chris Kyle that still sticks out to you?
Taya Kyle: Lately, it’s been the pranks that he would pull. The way he would just laugh. Just the funniest things that he did that entertained him. Even if it’s just honking the horn when I walk in front of the car *laughs*. It just made him laugh every time. I would look at him like, “Seriously? This is still funny?” But it does delight me today. The thing I miss the most is laughing with him, really. It wasn’t something important to tell in “American Sniper” because it wasn’t the point of the story, but it really was such an integral part of who he was. He was this mischievous guy with a twinkle in his eye who had an ability to laugh so easily. That was contagious and I miss it.

Fox News: How is your family doing today?
Kyle: We’re great. I see in my kids that their difficulty and struggle have turned into strength. Our perspective on the world is different. We know what a really bad day is like. We know what’s worth getting upset about. We’re pretty clear on things that are not in our control and how to weather those storms. We laugh a lot, we’re really close and we’re really, really grateful for what we do have. Maybe even more so because we realized you can lose it any day. So it’s best to appreciate what you have today.

Fox News: How has faith played an essential role in your life?
Kyle: When I look back, I believe the reason I’m still here is my faith in God and what he’s shown me over time. Whether the people in these stories are agnostic or have a different faith, to me, I see God. I see God in their story. I think he’s working in everyone’s life, everyone’s struggle. And I think the more you lean into him, ask him for help and have a relationship with him, the more you get these really extraordinary blessings and answers back. So my faith increased with my need for help and support… He knew someone would use their free will for evil and he prepared me ahead of time. He stayed with me during it and he stayed with me afterward, like a good parent who knows their child has to have an amputation.

I had started leaning into my faith long before Chris was killed. I did it when I was afraid of when he was deployed. I would ask God to take my fear and he would. It was a journey. But in those moments when I needed relief, I got it. I saw how I was stronger than I thought. Everything that I was faced with, that I thought would end me, didn’t. I really did build up a sense of resiliency and endurance with his help. So when the biggest thing came, I just didn’t have any doubt that God would be there for me through it. I learned on such a deeper level how much more he could do than I ever thought possible. I thought my faith was strong, but it got so much stronger in the aftermath of Chris’ death.

Fox News: What makes you proud to be an American?
Kyle: When I see people using their freedom in a way that it was designed. In my opinion, it was designed for you to have the freedom to express good. To express love. And religion in a good way. Sharing ideas. Diving into things that enrich your life. The parts of America that I love have to do with that dream of realizing the human spirit is so much stronger than any government.

Individuals are what makes the country great. It’s not when we force each other to believe one way or another make laws to make people think the way we think or act the way we think they ought to act. The beauty is in this freedom to be our unique selves and let that influence the country in a way that is organic. It’s not forcing everyone to be like you. It’s letting you be you… We all have different gifts and different ideas that we can bring to the table to lift each other up. If we focus on that… we will all get better.

Fox News: How can we honor everyday heroes?
Kyle: By seeing them. By recognizing them…. In my opinion, keeping one safe place for our warriors is the biggest gift we can give them. They see the evil in this world. And they need to know there’s one safe place where somebody will support and love them… And just listening. Showing up. Appreciating the fact that they have a life outside of service. That they have a family who loves them. That they’re a whole person, not just a warrior. I think you can do the things we’re starting to get better at as a country — thank them, buy them a coffee, just showing an act of kindness. Those things matter.

Fox News: What inspired you to write “American Spirit”?
Kyle: When I was out doing speaking engagements and visiting with the public across the country, I realized there were so many people doing really good things. They’re showing up for each other in unique ways, filling gaps that I wouldn’t have even thought were there. I got to the point where I felt it was selfish of me, it would be shameful of me not to share these stories. It gave me such hope in our country. It gave me hope in people and hope in healing.

Fox News: Which story surprised you the most and why?
Kyle: I think Micah Fink from Horses and Heroes, surprised me. That’s such a philosophical, poetic way he approached the issue of PTSD in his own life. The way he came through it, he has these analogies that are so beautiful. He comes out of it with this strength and toughness that you wouldn’t expect from someone who is also poetic about it and philosophical. But the other side of him is that warrior spirit, which is ever-present.

He’s a guy from New York who is now in Montana taming wild Mustangs with other people. It’s such a crazy, dichotomy of things that work. The way he was made is perfect for this need. And he says, “The easy way will kill you.” That’s something I think we’re losing a little bit in our culture. We sometimes think things should always be easy…. If you take the easy way, you miss out on the grit of the human spirit. That truly is where the beauty is. That’s where the gift is.

Fox News: You were also moved by Donny Davis, an Air Force veteran.
Kyle: Donny was an Air Force veteran and then he was a police officer. He started to get this cumulative PTSD where he says he was no stranger to the taste of his own gun barrel. That really paints a picture pretty quickly of how much he did not want to exist anymore in this world because of the evil he saw, all the trauma he faced. And yet, he comes out of it as a minister who is married to a woman who works with special needs kids.

And they take out a loan to secure a 1.3 million dollar property with a lake on it in order to build tiny homes for other veterans. It’s so cool to go on this crazy, winding road to get to this property. He came up with this unique concept of tiny homes on a property so that other people don’t feel so alone, so that other veterans have community, a roof over their head, food to eat and the ability to just pause for a second. That’s an extraordinary way to do it.

Fox News: There’s also the woman named Barbara who lost her husband, a member of the military. How did her story impact you?
Kyle: I met Barbara on the road and she had this ability to laugh and cry within a two-minute stretch. I can completely relate to that. I knew that she had the strength and an ability to take on difficult things without losing her heart, her soul and need for things to be good in life. And so, she started American Snippets. She’s doing incredible things for veterans, widows and people who are just struggling.

She’s also very vulnerable in her struggles, what she went through and things she’s not particularly proud of. But I think that kind of courage to speak out is what heals people. We often think that things we’re most ashamed of, we’re alone in it. And that’s because we don’t want to share it. So we don’t tell people. But the healing is when we’re OK with saying, “That is my shame, that was my story. And that’s OK. Because I’m not that person today. I grew. I changed.”



The Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund Supports Valor


The Scott Vallely Soldiers Memorial Fund and The Stand Up America U.S. Foundation are now supporting The Valor Equine Therapy Service Herd 2 Human Program for our veterans and first responders.

Equine Assisted Therapy has shown to be very effective in treating patients, including combat veterans and first responders, with PTSD, depression, anxiety, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, as well as behavior disorders.


Valor Equine Therapy Services, Inc. (V.E.T.S.) is a Montana based 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation established to help veterans and first responders suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Statistics show that horses calm the nerves, lower blood pressure and, in general, relieve stress.  Our veterans and first responders will be under the watchful eyes of trained equine professionals.

The goal for VETS is to establish a peaceful, serene atmosphere on a bucolic ranch situated in Northwestern Montana.  This will enable the veterans and first responders to “get away from it all” and relax in a rural setting, enjoying the benefits of a one-on-one relationship with a special horse.  Veterans and first responders will be housed on the ranch for a period of time to allow them to “de-stress” from all of life’s challenges.  VETS will offer programs such as, but not limited to, woodworking, furniture making, ornamental welding, photography, gardening, cooking, and financial counseling.

Mission Statement

To provide a resource for the ever-growing demand for professional assistance in mitigating the damaging effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or traumatic brain injury (TBI) suffered by military veterans, law enforcers, firefighters and EMT responders.  Equine Therapeutic Programs (ETPs) are supervised by professional equestrian instructors who teach wounded veterans and first responders how to interact, react, and care for a horse.


For more than five years, Valor Equine Therapy Service Inc., a nonprofit based in Columbia Falls, has used the healing power of horses to help active duty members, veterans and first-responders manage and mitigate the side effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a condition that occurs when someone struggles to recover mentally from a traumatic experience.

Some estimate more 13 million people in the United States struggle with PTSD and among the most susceptible are veterans and first-responders.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that PTSD affects about 30 percent of Vietnam veterans during their lifetimes, about 12 percent from the Gulf War and about 15 percent from operations in Iraq.

Valor’s founder, Lynn Murray, said that although she is not a veteran herself, her countless friends who served in Desert Storm and Vietnam inspired her to start the organization.

“I wanted to try and help my friends who seemed to not be receiving any help from the VA,” Murray said. “I noticed other animals like dogs were being used to heal people so I thought, why not horses?”

Those who choose to go through Valor’s program participate in various “talking circles” with mental-health professionals and are individually paired with a horse to interact with and care for alongside staff. Considering experiences with PTSD are often difficult to discuss openly, groups usually don’t consist of more than six participants at a time, Murray said.

To describe the benefits of human and horse interaction, Jeff Patterson, co-founder of Herd 2 Human, often turns to a tried-and-true Winston Churchill adage: “There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.”

According to Patterson, interacting with horses can lower blood pressure and slow heart rates. Horses also read and often mirror the emotions and behaviors of their owners and caretakers.

Common side-effects of PTSD include bouts of anxiety and mood swings — emotions that, should they arise, are difficult for those who are suffering to notice. So when the horse begins mirroring their behaviors, participants are then able to recognize and monitor their side-effects, said Valor’s operations manager, Wayne Appl.

“Horses are like a 1,200-pound lie detector,” Appl said. “You can’t hide anything from them.”

And program participants are not the only ones to benefit from equine therapy.

Some of the horses used in Valor’s program are rescues brought in from the Hiatt Equestrian Rescue and Recreation center in Bigfork. The horses are sometimes saved from slaughterhouses and abusive living conditions and are fighting mental problems of their own.

“Those horses need human touch as much as the humans need to touch them,” Murray said. “The animals sometimes finish the program just as healed as the people are.”

Murray said Valor has grown significantly over the years and she hopes to expand their facilities soon. In February, Skijor USA is coming to Columbia Falls and will donate a portion of proceeds from the event to Valor.

Reporter Kianna Gardner may be reached at 758-4439 or kgardner@dailyinterlake.com.



Valor Equine Therapy Program

Equine Assisted Therapy Research Abstract

Memorial Day 2019: Remembering All of Ours and All the Days when Being American was Everything

Memorial Day 2019: Remembering All of Ours and All the Days when Being American was Everything.

May 27, 2019

By MG Paul E. Vallely, US Army Ret.

We pause this day in America to remember our fallen heroes, the men and women who answered the call of freedom and paid the ultimate sacrifice. We lament our losses, the losses of our friends, the losses from our communities and our nation as a whole – we bow our heads in silent sorrow, but our hearts are also filled with pride for their service to each and every American – to the longevity of our nation and way of life.

Let us remember and thank them for the nights they slept freezing in a tent, or sweating in the desert, for the lonely days they spent fighting boredom and missing loved ones, for the hours they spent sick in pain from battle and without someone holding their hand other than their fellow soldiers, for the moments of sheer fright in the heat of battle, for the wounds suffered fighting evil, for the endless days in hospitals undergoing painful surgeries, for the precious occasions missed at home with family and friends.

For all of these sacrifices, we need to thank them on behalf of millions of Americans who are so grateful. We truly appreciate their dedication to duty, living up to their oaths, honoring those who came before them, and defending our Constitution.

I wish a special thank you to all the families and friends as well. I want to thank the parents who raised them, stood by them, and made them honorable men and woman. Most especially, we thank the wives, husbands, and loved ones who stood by them and supported them with their love as well.

May their legacy be honored for generations to come, may the tears shed over their coffins fertilize the fields of patriotism in our nation. The new generations to come must be built on strength, duty, honor and country, willing and able to follow in their Warrior footsteps when duty calls to defend America. May their blood not have been shed in vain. May we prove worthy of their sacrifice.

You who have served and are serving as our brave ones, our heroes, are our national treasures. You are the pride of our nation, our strength and our foundation.

Thanks to you, millions have been freed around the world. Those who criticize our country, burn our precious flag, and speak ill of you, are able to do so because their freedom is built upon your blood and your sacrifice.

Our son speaks from his resting place. He speaks to me each day from his hallowed space with beautiful skies and mountains majestic white with snow. God bless his soul and the others and I thank him for his wonderful contribution to our life.

He lives forever in our hearts. I fear no evil when I walk with Warriors. We walk in the valley of the shadow of death, but we fear no evil. We are the Masters of our Destiny and the Captains of our souls.

You are the wind beneath my wings, and I will fly with you forever in eternity.

Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day began as a tradition of decorating the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flags and flowers to show the respect of a grateful nation for their service and sacrifice. This tradition continues today, and our nation now sets aside the last Monday in May to celebrate the courage of the men and women who have worn America’s colors in war and in peace.

I recall as a young man, remembering on Memorial Day that in the morning there was a parade down Main Street, led by a color guard, the high school band, and ranks of veterans from World War I, World War II, and the war of the moment, Korea.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars sold red poppies to raise funds for the disabled. Politicians made speeches and citizens prayed in public.

It was a solemn annual event that taught us reverence for those who served and sacrificed for our country.

It is no longer so in many places in America, especially in our large urban areas.

Sadly, it is now best known to all too many as the beginning of summer, a day for a barbecue, not a day of remembrance.

Begun as a local observance in the aftermath of the Civil War, the first national commemoration took place on May 30, 1868, at the direction of General John A. Logan, Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

Though his “General Order No. 11” specified “strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion” – meaning only Union soldiers – those who tended the burial sites at Arlington, VA, Gettysburg, PA, and Vicksburg, MS, decided on their own to decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate war dead.

For five decades the holiday remained essentially unchanged. But in 1919, as the bodies of young Americans were being returned to the U.S. from the battlefields of World War I, May 30th became a truly national event. It persisted as such until 1971, during the Vietnam War – the war America wanted to forget – when the Uniform Holiday Act passed by Congress went into effect, and turned Memorial Day into a “three-day weekend.”

Since then, it’s become an occasion for appliance, mattress, and auto sales, a day for picnics, barbecues, and auto races. Thankfully, there are some places besides Arlington National Cemetery, places like Bigfork, Montana, where Memorial Day is still observed as a time to honor America’s war dead.

This Memorial Day we remember those who have served our nation in the past and those who currently serve America today. Although Memorial Day comes only once a year, we must make sure that our service members know how grateful we are every day. This day recognizes the sacrifices made by our courageous men and women who have fallen in defense of our nation’s liberty.

This Memorial Day, please take a moment to remember and honor America’s fallen and our current day warriors who are advancing freedom’s cause and defending us in far away lands, always at the ready.

WE salute you one and all.  WE bow before you in respect and humility. May God bless you and God bless America – the land of the free and the home of the brave.