A powerful double duty event!
Last month, Joint Base Andrews (JBA) held its annual Wingman/Shipmate Day by hosting the National Resilience Institute’s 6th annual Resilience Summit.
This is the first time that JBA brought this type of programming on to base and we are honored to partner in efforts to grow resilience and reduce military suicides. We also are grateful for the gracious hospitality shown to us – including a tour of Air Force Two planes and installation facilities.
Colonel Andrew Purath, 11th Wing Commander at JBA, kicked off the event by talking about the importance of resilience skills building. He rightly predicted that there would be much wisdom from which to choose and encouraged everyone to take and apply one or two specific pieces of guidance. Special thanks to our event emcee, Simon T. Bailey, for expertly helping participants process these golden nuggets.
NRI Board Chair, April Smith, highlighted why this work matters, sharing a personal story of two of her Veteran family members with very different endings, based on the presence or lack of resilience.
Jeff Buchanan, a recently retired Lieutenant General, U.S. Army, reminded us that resilience is not about avoiding adversity, but rather how we use the adversity that we face to build up ourselves — and more importantly, to help others. While typical Americans might identify sports figures, actors, musicians or other celebrities as their heroes, this confuses being famous with being heroic. He shared inspiring stories of heroes, defined by two characteristics: courageous acts and a noble purpose.
“What is the definition of a hero? A true hero is one who acts with courage and serves a noble purpose.”~Jeff Buchanan
Our CEO, Dr. Mollie Marti, shared a key component of resilience, emphasizing that we must expand our understanding beyond personal grit to embrace the foundational elements of relationships and resources.
“The science of resilience is clear that resources are more important than being resourceful. When we have relationships and resources in place, we are better able to use the coping and resilience skills we’ve learned.”~Mollie Marti
Retired U.S. Army Medic, Kirk Ferguson, shared lessons learned from 23 years in Special Forces, emphasizing both the hard work – and the payoffs – of maintaining trusted relationships. He talked about what worked for him and his wife, his former high school sweetheart who was in the audience, to stay strong as she held down the home front with their two sons through his repeated tours of duty.
Rod Knecht, retired Chief of Police of Edmonton, Canada, shared a case study of organizational culture change in response to the loss of several officers in the line of duty. He noted that a comprehensive response is needed for both traumatic and long-term stress.
“Supervisors can now approve immediate leave. The officers no longer need to ‘suck it up’ like in the past.”~Rod Knecht
Erin Fletcher, representing Summit sponsor Wounded Warrior Project, shared the resources of the Warrior Care Network, an intensive whole-person program for service personnel and Veterans that covers all treatment and travel costs.
Maya Tadmor-Anderman, Director of the US Programs for NATAL: Israel Trauma and Resiliency Center, highlighted the powerful public advocacy work of NATAL. Intentionally de-stigmatizing post-traumatic stress and help-seeking is a foundational piece of effectively providing help to more people in need.
Paula Stephens, a Gold Star Mom and chaplain, said that well beyond the death of a loved one, we are constantly experiencing losses, big and small, that need to be acknowledged and worked with. Making meaning, a uniquely human capability, lays the foundation of giving purpose to our lives. Allow yourself to walk this journey in ways that feel right for you, not governed by what society or others say the process should look like.
“My actions are the ground upon which I stand.”~Paula Stephens
Dr. David Corderman, Retired Chief of the FBI Leadership Development Institute, emphasized the importance of being connected to something greater than ourselves as we move through loss and adversity. Reflecting on our ability to respond to the needs of today’s world, he lauded the collaborative leadership and work being brought forth through the National Resilience Institute.
“Leaders must lead by example. We must build our capacity for resilience.”~Dave Corderman
Bob VandePol, Executive Director of the Employee Assistance Program at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, called on us to not let any particular experience define us. He emphasized the importance of intentionally creating a personal resilience plan, including focusing on a mission greater than ourselves, connecting in meaningful relationships with people who will be supportively honest, and consistently engaging in healthy life practices.
“There is so much more to you than any tragedy. Do not let it define you.”~Bob VandePol
David Richmond, director of the UK’s Veterans Affairs Office, shared lessons from his military leadership as well as from being seriously wounded in combat. He emphasized that there has never been a time when leadership has been more important than in the uncertain and complex world in which we are living.
“Become an expert in the solutions, not in the problems. Outcomes are key!”~David Richmond
The day included three expert panels on growing emotional resilience, supporting transitions and recovery, and leading towards cultures of resilience. Panelists fielded questions from the audience, including topics of personal resilience, mental health, suicide prevention, military sexual trauma, and leadership.
More than forty questions were received from participants following the event that the National Resilience Institute will answer in various ways to assist JBA personnel. We extend our heartfelt appreciation to all for engaging so fully in this important conversation about resilience and wellness in our military communities.