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This Kansas City nonprofit is giving veterans tools to cope with post-traumatic stress

Veterans and first responders take part in a five-day retreat aimed at helping veterans and first responders address post-traumatic stress disorder.
Mike Kenny
Warriors' Ascent
Veterans and first responders take part in a five-day retreat aimed at addressing post-traumatic stress disorder.

An estimated 29% of military members who served Iraq and Afghanistan will experience post-traumatic stress during their life time. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to address the mental health condition but after trying multiple other methods, two Kansas veterans found healing through the Kansas City nonprofit Warriors' Ascent.

As the war in Afghanistan came to a chaotic end, Jessica Dow found herself struggling to process and accept how America's 20 years of involvement in the country was coming to an end.

"As things with the evacuation started to slow down, the 20 years prior to it and the evacuation itself started to kind of seep back into my life," Dow said.

Dow served in the Air Force and Army for a combined 25 years, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan multiple times. When the war ended, she poured all her energy into getting people out of the country, sometimes leaving her husband and children to pick up the slack at home. She described being a "train wreck."

"Up until that point, I had not really tried to process any of the events of the past 20 years because I thought, the war is not over," Dow said.

For Chief Warrant Officer Four retired Matt Hastings, it wasn't until years after leaving the service that the former Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot began struggling with his mental health.

"Yeah, it kind of snuck up on me, I didn't really know what's happening," Hastings said.

Dow and Hastings told Up To Date why the techniques they learned through a five-day retreat at the Kansas City nonprofit Warriors' Ascent were effective in helping them cope with post-traumatic stress.

"It was mind-blowing to me what five days could do," Dow said. "I was skeptical that that would be enough to help me process 20 years of warfighting, but it's not like that."

  • Jessica Dow, veteran participant, Warriors' Ascent
  • Matt Hastings, veteran participant, Warriors' Ascent
  • Mike Kenny, executive director, Warriors' Ascent
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