What is Veterans Talking to Veterans at the National Museum of Military Vehicles?Jul 03, 2023
The Wyoming Veterans Commission, Mentor Agility, and the National Museum of Military Vehicles showcased Veterans Talking to Veterans with a FREE Memorial Day Special Event in Dubois Wyoming on May 27th, 2023. The event was as informative as it was entertaining for the whole family with Veterans Talking to Veterans storytellers and coaches, honored speakers, a film premiere, and a Veterans Resource Fair.
Veterans and their families gathered at the National Museum for Military Vehicles for the first Veterans Talking to Veterans (VTTV) event. Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon and the Wyoming Veterans Commission have responded to the crisis of loneliness and suicide prevention with Veterans Talking to Veterans, a reimagined way for Veterans to heal and re-engaged in civilian life at home, work, and in the community. Veterans Talking to Veterans is an application of Mentor Agility’s trauma-informed coaching certification. The program trains Veterans to be certified trauma-informed coaches who provide free community coaching groups for Veterans and their families to restore fellowship, mentorship, motivation, service, and purpose in their own community. Governor Mark Gordon, Tim Sheppard, Executive Director for the Wyoming Veterans Commission, and Dan Starks, Owner of the National Museum of Military Vehicles handed out diplomas after listening to emotional testimonials from the graduating VTTV Coaches.
Among the speakers on hand to inspire the graduating class and the audience were Governor Mark Gordon, Distinguished Service Cross recipient Lee Alley, and Conrad Washington, Director of VA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
Of particular note, Dan Starks, owner and founder of the National Museum of Military Vehicles was honored with the distinction of a Purple Heart Museum by way of the Department of Idaho and Wyoming. Purple Heart Recipient Timothy Tomaszewski and Barry Gasdek, the Military Order of the Purple Heart Commander for Wyoming were part of the presentation Mr. Gasdek gave testimony to the crowd. Mr. Starks read the Purple Heart Proclamation just prior to it being presented by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon. The museum was also honored with the Purple Heart Reserved Parking Sign.
Few understand what it means to serve in the military like a Veteran. Unique challenges accompany the sense of purpose, fellowship, and competence that come with military service. The challenges of service can continue into civilian life, and the pandemic has magnified the vulnerabilities that come with Veterans living in rural America. Wyoming PBS describes the developing crisis, “The Mountain West is in the grips of a full-blown mental health crisis, and Wyoming is ground zero. Stigma in isolated rural communities prevents people from seeking help but with addiction, suicide, and PTSD devastating the state, it is time to start a conversation.” With one of the highest Veteran populations per capita, Wyoming represents a microcosm of the issues and efforts to solve the problems that come with Veterans transitioning into civilian life.
Veterans Talking to Veterans provides a fresh approach to Veteran healing and engagement. It is not therapy or a peer support group. It is a community group coaching program that trains Veterans or family members to be trauma-informed coaches. These trained VTTV Coaches create a safe and supportive environment for Veterans to connect with other Veterans who understand what it means to serve in the military and the accompanying experiences. Coaches go one step further than peer groups because they understand intrinsic motivation and have the training to re-engage Veterans with their families, workplace, and community.
The program is endorsed by Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, “In an effort to better serve the Veteran community, my administration, through the Veterans Commission, has funded and implemented a multi-tiered program called Veterans Talking to Veterans. Designed by Mentor Agility specifically for Wyoming Veterans and their families, this program promotes camaraderie, personal growth, and self-efficacy through regular free online and in-person group gatherings across the State.” Mentor Agility is a trauma-informed training company specializing in storytelling. Their exclusive certified trauma-informed coaching approach trains Veterans to become certified trauma-informed coaches and if they chose to, their training qualifies them for credentialing by both the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches and the International Coaching Federation. The testimonials of the coaches speak for themselves:
- While I have completed many trainings and certifications, I had no idea how much personal healing I would receive during this course. That is invaluable to me, and I foresee this to be the beginning of many beautiful opportunities, both personally, and professionally. With an open heart, and grateful mind, thank you. - VTTV Coach Amanda Huckabay
- Upon enrolling, I could not begin to imagine how informative this class and the lessons would be. I cherish the granted opportunity to learn from all of the instructors. The lessons were far beyond my expectations and provided so much insight for personal growth, and I look forward to beginning the journey as a mentor and coach to others. As this journey continues, I also look forward to the introspective self-coaching that I most certainly will realize. Thank you so much for this blessing you have provided. - VTTV Coach Rae Whitley
The event began with the Big Wind Singers, one of the longest-standing Shoshone and Arapahoe Song groups from the tribal lands of the Crowheart with ties across the Great Basin. Both Veteran and tribal members presented colors and sang the Shoshone Flag Song, Honor Song, and Soldier Boy Song.
Distinguished guest Governor Mark Gordon opened the ceremonies with the First Lady Jennie Gordon. Following the Governor, Lee Alley, the recipient of the Army's Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts gave a commencement speech. Later in the morning, speaker Conrad Washington, Director of the VA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) discussed their broad spectrum of national VA resources and information for Veterans through partnerships with local organizations nationwide.
Of special note, Wyoming PBS premiered State of Mind: The Battle Inside - Veterans and PTSD, a soldier’s perspective of the mental health crisis, as they open up about their battle with post-traumatic stress. Immediately following Joanna Kail moderated a guided conversation between the audience, filmmaker Mat Hames, and a panel of experts.
Because Wyoming is largely a wild and rural state making it challenging to access services, this event brought together innovative ways to support Veterans and their families. The FREE Veterans Talking to Veterans at the National Museum of Military Vehicles event featured a Veterans Resource Fair to connect Veterans to national and state resources. With the intent to inform and entertain, organizations including American Red Cross, AARP, and the VA were on hand to discuss how to address the lives of Veterans and their family.
The National Museum of Military Vehicles is a bucket list destination with the largest collection of US Military rolling vehicles in the U.S. outside of the armed forces themselves. Their mission is to honor the service and sacrifice of our Veterans and their families, educate the next generations on the history of American freedom, and preserve and share historic military vehicles.
The museum is located in Dubois Wyoming, one of the last real old West towns — a charming hidden gem with the authentic feel of the wild frontier. Barely an hour from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park, the museum sits over a smooth, scenic highway in the peaceful Wind River Valley.