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Volunteers, Building Veterans join to make place to overcome PTSD

By PATTI BORDA MULLINS | The Frederick News-Post, Md. | Published: July 30, 2015

BRUNSWICK (Tribune News Service) — Navy veteran Kevin Dubé was able to start rebuilding his broken life in a house ripe for renovating that Lori and Bob Wyatt bought.

The Wyatts founded the nonprofit 501(c)(3) Building Veterans to help former servicemembers heal from post-traumatic stress disorder and brain injuries. Bob Wyatt's plan was for the vets to rebuild their lives while rebuilding a house.

"Military people are used to having a mission," he said. "We renovate and give the men things to do."

Wyatt, a Vietnam era veteran, faced up to having PTSD in 2008, and wanted to help others recover. On Wednesday, veterans and volunteers from several Home Depot stores worked like troupers at 11 S. Maryland Ave., to replace windows, beautify the yard and install new doors.

The volunteer reinforcements helped on the one-day, all-out assault, part of a long campaign to get the house and its occupants in order.

"That's a never-ending battle," Dubé said.

Over the past eight months, he and the other five residents have replaced all the molding and trim, fixed "lots of plumbing," added a vegetable garden, built a fire pit, replaced drywall and done some electrical work.

Home Depot stores around the region shared employees and donated supplies Wednesday.

"They were awesome," Dubé said. "They did such a good job."

The crew accomplished more in one day than the residents could in weeks, he said.

The volunteers, some of whom were also veterans, wanted to show their appreciation, said Nash Perkins, manager of the Home Depot on McCain Drive in Frederick.

"Whatever we can do to help these vets," Perkins said. "PTSD is a pain you can't see.

"It's very near and dear to our associates as well."

Day in and day out, the six program members who live in the first Building Veterans house take classes, mentor one another, look for work, attend school and take care of the endless maintenance and improvements, said Michael Slinkard, house manager.

Although Slinkard is not a veteran, he graduated from a similar peer-to-peer counseling program Wyatt ran in Missouri.

"Some of the most healing I ever got was the late-night talks with my roommate," Slinkard said. "My life changed so drastically, they made me a staff member."

"That's another great thing about here," Dubé said. "The camaraderie. ... It's so easy to talk to one another.

"I have the support of the guys lifting me up," he said.

They are encouraged to volunteer out of the house. It helps them re-enter the world, Dubé said.

"We're all about building the community, not just the people in the program," he said.

Separation from the mission-based military service can add to the stress of dealing with visible and invisible injuries of service, Wyatt said.

Dubé, whose marriage fell apart while he was in the service, turned to alcohol and drugs to deal with his problems.

"You're not really trained to handle the emotional things," Dubé said.

Wyatt said military people are taught to follow orders and not to complain, so seeking help is counterintuitive.

Dubé said seeking help for his troubles would have jeopardized his place in air traffic control school.

"It definitely reflects poorly on your record," Dubé said.

In 2007, he was discharged from the Navy after failing a drug test. Abuse of drugs and alcohol continued and landed him in jail for two years that ended in January.

There, he said, he realized he needed to get away from bad influences, turn to God and redirect his life.

"I knew I needed help," he said.

He applied to residential treatment facilities that did not respond, and then applied to Building Veterans.

"The very next day, Bob [Wyatt] showed up," Dubé said.

Dubé started working on house projects as soon as he moved in in January, and now has a part-time job. He said the difference in his life now compared with two years ago is "night and day."

He recorded a video of Wednesday's activities to share on the Internet to educate the public about Building Veterans, and the Wyatts' effort to expand the program to an additional house.

"Not too many people know about this program," Dubé said. "We've got to change that."

"The biggest thing for me is it's given me hope."

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(c)2015 The Frederick News-Post (Frederick, Md.)
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