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Helping Veterans Grapple with Life
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Helping Veterans Grapple with Life

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One of the things I hate most in this world is hypocrisy. 

I expect a person’s words and actions to be consistent. No matter how old I get, I’m still surprised and disappointed when someone’s actions show that their words were meaningless.  

It’s easy, for instance, to claim you’re patriotic on July 4th.  But it’s funny how many people are “too busy” to do their civic duty on Election Day.  And, sadly, most people are patriotic only as long as it doesn’t require any effort.

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My frustration becomes outright anger when that hypocrisy concerns veterans.  Once again, it’s easy to talk big about honoring and supporting veterans on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, but when it comes to backing those words with actions on the other 363 days of the year, where is that support?

While politicians are stingy in their support of veterans, there are some grass roots efforts to provide help and relief for returning veterans.  And, I’m proud to say that the grappling community is part of that effort.  

As reported by 9 News Australia, on August 3rd, 2019, Scott Steer, a former Special Forces soldier, opened Veteran Grappling on Australia’s Gold Coast.  This gym is dedicated to helping veterans re-adjust to civilian life by offering classes in Yoga, Judo, BJJ, and other martial arts.  The gym even offers hydrotherapy.

Veteran Grappling is open six days a week, with someone always on hand to offer support (or a choke).

The best part?  These services are free to veterans because the gym is community-funded.

Scott Steer opened the gym because he realized how useful the grappling arts were in dealing with the mental stresses common to returning soldiers.  He admits, “This teaches them a way that they can control their mind and be a sort of release, too.”

Among the instructors at Veteran Grappling is Damien Brown, a former Afghanistan soldier and UFC fighter.  Brown volunteers his time instructing at Veteran Grappling because he knows, firsthand, the challenges that face veterans returning to normal life after facing combat conditions.  Brown points out that “It’s impossible to think about how bad your life is at the same time as defending a takedown. So, I think that it forces an ‘out’ for my soldiers.”

Along with martial arts, however, perhaps the most important benefit that Veteran Grappling offers to veterans is a sense of brotherhood and community.  After all, too many veterans find themselves feeling isolated and adrift when they return to civilian life. And they feel that they alone are dealing with depression, PTSD, and other mental demons that commonly affect returning soldiers.  

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Here, they realize that they are not alone.  They realize that they are still part of a brotherhood, and they can see that others are dealing with the same problems as they are.  Realizing that they are not alone, the stigma that many feel about their mental stresses can fall away, making it easier to find and accept help.

Bill Hughes, a veteran, admits that there is a void in services to help veterans make the huge transition back into civilian life.

Fortunately, there are still people in this world who back their words with actions.  Hopefully, as the grappling community grows here and in Australia, we can see more of this type of outreach.

For more on Veteran Grappling, see their Facebook page.  

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