By Mr. Ramee Opperude (Regional Health Command Pacific)August 16, 2018
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (Aug. 15, 2018) -- The U. S Army Health Clinic-Schofield Barracks, joined several veteran service organizations and the Association of the United States Army to host the Na Koa Regatta Health Matters Symposium Aug. 15.
The event brought together panels of experts, wounded warriors and spouses, and dozens of organizations who support the veteran community.
The health and wellness forum started in 2016 but has expanded in the two years since AUSA Family Programs and the leadership from the USAHC-SB have partnered for this event during the Na Koa week.
The USAHC-SB provided experts who specialize in behavioral health and leaders from the Move to Health Committee for the event. Panel experts and attendees included Warriors at Ease, Healing Arts Hawaii and the Honolulu Museum of Art.
Many of the Soldiers in attendance came in eager anticipation of the afternoon yoga session.
"Yoga not only allows us to breathe properly but to also builds strength, flexibility, balance, movement and builds resiliency," said Joan Benitez, Warriors at Ease instructor. "All of which is necessary not only as a service member but also as a veteran."
"Yoga works on the mind as well as the body. Once we practice yoga regularly, we see a path of discipline and self-improvement to better serve our families, friends and the communities as well as within ourselves," Benitez added.
During the afternoon's breakout sessions, attendees had the opportunity to apply some of the best practices shared during the morning panels and discussions focused around art therapy, yoga and financial readiness.
Staff Sgt. Patrick Miller was one such attendee who spent a portion of the afternoon designing a mask at the art therapy breakout session. Mask painting is a common practice at the Intensive Outpatient Behavioral Health clinic at the USAHC-SB and would not be possible without the support of the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Arts and Crafts Center.
"There are no words than can explain what is inside the mind of someone who is struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, so art can be a form to express that", Miller said. "Having a community that understands that not all illness can be cured by medicine alone." "Na Koa Regatta makes a huge impact in my opinion because it gives PTSD patients the ability to express themselves, be active, and help one another."
In addition to mask painting, attendees had an opportunity to practice mindfulness exercises and yoga.
"I was not only able to rid myself of pain medications that seemed to weigh me down mentally and physically," Benitez said. "After I started to continually practice yoga I found that I could learn how to mentally block the pain and start working on being able to move."
"Where I had issues with the inability to walk without assistance; after a year of continued practice of yoga I was able to complete a full marathon. Yoga gave me back not only my physical sense of self but also my mental well-being," Benitez added.
Mental health is integral part of the holistic health approach that the leaders at the USAHC-SB instill in their staff and their patients with each visit. The symposium offered practitioners an opportunity to gain a greater appreciation for the impact that their guidance and knowledge can provide.
"The yoga/mindfulness session allowed me to take a moment out of my day to focus on myself," said Capt. Laura Dy, occupational therapy officer in charge, USAHC-SB. "I was able to focus on breathing and begin releasing tension that accumulates throughout the day."
The symposium is a part of the Na Koa Regatta that was launched in 2009 at the Pearl Harbor Marina, with teams representing all services as well as first responder organizations. The Honolulu Navy League hosted the 2013 event, and then in 2014, the Hawaii Chapter of AUSA assumed responsibilities as the host.
Along the way, the race has expanded to include considerably more wounded warriors and Gold Star families. It now includes a youth heat for the children of the wounded and Gold Star children.