Anyone in need of a better understanding of PTSD and its successful treatment opportunities needs information about the Birdwell Foundation and its Camp Valor.
First of all, the Birdwell Foundation for PTSD is a Houston-based and faith-based nonprofit organization serving veterans and first responders suffering from PTSD and related illnesses.
Gene Birdwell of Houston founded the foundation, whose mission is to decrease and eliminate veteran and first responder suicides relying on the experiences of fellow warriors who have “found their way out of the darkness” through a healing process they are providing to others.
How do you get into Camp Valor?
A phone call should do it. Call either of the camp’s co-directors: John Bailey 253-391-4427 or Mike Davila 713-429-9210. No tuition cost!
A major component of that healing process is Camp Valor, near Conroe. The vision of the Birdwell Foundation centers around its belief that “the wide-open feeling of country living will offer a healing environment for veterans and first responders battling PTSD and addiction.”
The overall vision of Mr. Birdwell was inspired when he was “deeply moved when he witnessed the returning combat veterans suffering and hurting and decided he must do something about it.”
The foundation provides intervention, weekly group sessions, one-on-one counseling and support, and public education about PTSD. Many of the personnel involved in this process are recovering from PTSD suffered as either military service personnel or first responders.
Camp Valor consists of a two-story brick home with beds for 16 people, a large country kitchen and two fireplaces, a saltwater pool and two barns. It is located near Conroe on nine and a half acres of property with a large creek-fed pond.
The camp officially opened Aug. 16. Co-Director John Bailey, an Army Vietnam War veteran, said, “The first guy to graduate will do so Dec. 18. Other guys aren’t ready yet. We want them to leave with the ability to go on with their life. There is no cure for PTSD. You learn to live with it, to learn to take the false guilt out of it. Take the tragedy out of it.”
Bailey said the camp is well known to authorities in four counties – Harris, Liberty, Jefferson and Montgomery. This is evident when you realize many suffering from PTSD get in the criminal justice system, where counseling is seen as part of the justice process.
“Most people get into the program by calling us,” Bailey said, stressing the need to make his and his co-director’s phone numbers public. He also stressed to those who might be suffering from PTSD to “journal every day.” He said his journaling experience “got me back to God.”
“People who journal can save their lives,” Bailey said. “We are faith-based. When I got shot down and lost the whole crew, I went away from God.
“We have to sprinkle faith in there,” he said, referring to the Camp Valor format. “We read the Bible every day but don’t push it down their throats.
“Without God you can’t do it. You’ve got to have God.”
In its first year, the camp has a wish list. A gym was on the initial list but Bailey reported there is one in operation.
Other items on the wish list include a garden, and new buildings to house more men, then offering the brick home currently in operation for dedicated women severely impacted with the same suffering. Other “wishes” include skilled volunteers to teach trades such as carpentry, welding, electrical, auto mechanics and masonry, paving the way for productive self-reliance in the civilian world.
Fundraisers on the property may include music, auctions, cook-offs, and family events. Another goal is for every graduate of Camp Valor to have a service dog to take home.
As the camp launches, they have a list of donation needs on their Facebook site.
See https://www.facebook.com/BirdwellFoundationCampValor for their list of needs. For more information about the Birdwell Foundation, visit www.BirdwellFoundation.org.