According to Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation volunteer Dennise Watanabe,
“In 2021, my retired in-laws, Lillian and Steve Watanabe, embarked on a mission to give back to our nation’s heroes. They established a local non-profit organization, the Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation, whose mission is to provide combat veterans and first responders with the skills necessary to overcome traumatic stress experienced during their service to our country. Lillian and Steve’s vision is to create a place these Warriors and their families can call home and where they can begin to write their new story.
Inspired by their determination to make a difference, I wanted to get involved with the Foundation. Through this incredible chapter in my life, I have met some of the finest men and women who have ever served. So many continue to suffer daily because they haven’t been trained on how to overcome traumatic stress or because of the stigma associated with discussing mental health. Often, we take our freedoms for granted without fully understanding the true magnitude of sacrifice required for us to enjoy these blessings.
“We have all heard the statement ‘freedom isn’t free,’ but it wasn’t until I became involved as a volunteer, I had not stopped to ask what that statement really meant to me. My experience with Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation has shown me that there are men and women in our community struggling to connect to civilian life or life as a family unit directly because they volunteered to serve our country.
“Over 22 veterans die every day by suicide, and we lose more first responders to suicide every year than in the line of duty. It is up to organizations like Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation to deliver training programs that help our Warriors turn their struggles into strength. One of the program’s chief principles is that struggle is a terrible thing to waste, for without struggle, we wouldn’t have growth. Eagle Oak Retreat is dedicated to teaching our Warriors how to use their struggles to find personal growth and resiliency.
“Our Posttraumatic Growth programs, transitioning home training, and family reconnection services are what this generation of heroes need. Their sacrifices for us shouldn’t cost them their lives or their ability to connect with those closest to them. Now we have an opportunity to volunteer and fight for them. Together we can be the light of hope and give them their freedom back. As we prepare to open our retreat in North Texas in a few months, I ask you, ‘How will you serve these men, women and their families?’
“We are the first location in Texas to provide this type of training, which is provided at no cost to the students. My wish this holiday season is to receive in-kind donations for classroom and program materials, which can be found on our Amazon Wishlist. Help these Warriors thrive and write their new story.
* Photo provided by Eagle Oak Retreat Foundation