In 2009, Leslie Mayne lost her oldest son, Kyle, just after he was discharged from a VA medical center. He had endured a long struggle with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury. Kyle had served as a sharpshooter and machine gunner in Iraq, and since his deployment and honorable discharge from the Army, he had been struggling with nightmares, anxiety and depression. The morning after his discharge from the VA hospital, he was discovered in a hotel room in Baltimore. He had overdosed on alcohol and his medications. He was 27 years old.
“The last time I saw him, he looked really disheveled,” Leslie said. “He looked scared. Later, when I looked at his paperwork from the medical center, I found a note that directed doctors to ‘call mom and dad before you discharge this soldier.’ Neither of us got that phone call.”
Leslie’s long journey through her grief led her to become the founding director of the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation. The Foundation helps veterans and first responders access effective, long-term solutions to transform post-traumatic stress into post-traumatic growth. It has received support from Mission Roll Call and other well-known veterans’ organizations and nonprofits.
“Kyle suffered from a lot of nightmares,” Leslie explained. “It seemed fitting to name the foundation Permission to Start Dreaming.”
What is Post-Traumatic Growth?
Post-traumatic growth is a theory developed by psychologists Richard Tedeschi, PhD, and Lawrence Calhoun, PhD, in the mid-1990s. It holds that people who endure psychological struggle following adversity can see positive growth afterwards, by using their experiences to rise to a higher level of functioning.
“You can find your passion and purpose again in spite of your incredible loss,” said Leslie. “You can survive post-traumatic stress. If Kyle had had the right resources, he could have been alive today. That’s why I’m helping other veterans and first responders become the men and women that God designed them to be.”
Since 2011, the Permission to Start Dreaming Foundation has sought and supported local organizations that offer alternative therapies which help soldiers and their families readjust to life back home. They have also developed their own strength-based programs, monthly peer to peer support meetings called “Huddles,” in Tacoma and Gig Harbor, Washington with plans to expand.
The foundation has delivered Mind, Body and Spirit workshops and courage and leadership summits; has eliminated barriers for veterans to receive equine therapy and counseling, and has financially assisted many local veterans and first responders to attend progressive week-long retreats that offer combat stress recovery and focus on post-traumatic growth.
The foundation’s mission stems from the belief that veterans should be provided the very best programs that help restore their lives and overcome the trauma they face. One of the programs Leslie supports is Boulder Crest, a retreat center in Bluemont, Virginia that develops, delivers, and scales transformative programs to heal combat veterans, first responders, and their families who have experienced trauma.
Race for a Soldier
Leslie also started Race for a Soldier, a half-marathon, 10-miler, and 5K race through the scenic Pacific Northwest in support of a better future for the men and women that serve our country and our communities. This year’s race will take place on September 19, 2021.
“Every Soldier has a story,” says Leslie. “And every year, two days before the Race for A Soldier, the community comes together for a well-attended event called the Prayer Breakfast, where those stories are told at a safe and honoring venue.”
Additionally, two other popular events, Swing for A Soldier Golf Tournament, and Pull for A Soldier, a competitive trap shoot event, offer community and awareness of the foundation’s mission. Swing for a Soldier will be held July 12 in Bremerton, Washington.
To donate to the PTSD Foundation, click here.
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- Desert Vets Racing: Healing with adrenaline
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Feature images courtesy of PTSD Foundation’s Facebook