Returning Freedom to Those Who Fought for Ours

In honor of the final day of Veterans Month, I share a story I wrote that appeared in the Inside the Gate magazine last month.

Veteran patients from Walter Reed Medical Center didn’t know horses would help them. Gold Star Mothers didn’t realize how equine relationships would evolve. And military families weren’t aware of local horse facilities and the joy they would bring their children. Horses Help Heroes marched in and made a difference.

Dean Tracy, a service-disabled U.S. Marine Corps veteran, established the Maryland-based 501(c)(3) non-profit Horses Help Heroes in 2016. His goal was to enrich the lives of veterans and their families through equine-related programs in safe environments. He offers all programs at no cost to veterans and families.

Horses Help Heroes works with licensed stables in Maryland including Great Escape Stables in South Bowie and Clarity Riding in Davidsonville. Tracy works with the farms to develop events ranging from veteran encounters with horses to family days including pony rides.

A Walter Reed veteran program participant said, “This is the best therapy there is. I never want to miss a visit.” The U.S. Marine Corps gave him a five percent chance to live following his combat-inflicted traumatic brain injuries. And now, the horses are helping him heal.

Social worker Claire McCawley supports the Horses Help Heroes mission as one of its all-volunteer force. She said, “There is so much research that supports animal-assisted therapy. One of the problems with people undergoing serious medical treatment, like many of the people in this program, is the isolation for them. Bringing them out to connect with the animals in a non-intrusive way acts as a medium for more social interaction. This is such a great program.”

Horses Help Heroes is unique in that it also supports Gold Star families. Gold Star families are those that have lost a family member during conflicts. One of Horses Help Heroes’ champions is Janice Chance, President of Maryland’s Gold Star Mothers. She is the proud mother of fallen Captain Jesse Melton III, U.S Marine Corps, killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. Chance rallies other Gold Star Mothers and families to attend events and support the program. She even rides herself, choosing her namesake pony, “Chance.”

“We are all blessed to be here,” she said as she smiled wide and enjoyed Chance’s peaceful, rocking ride around Great Escape Stables’ arena.

Elizabeth Ratliff, an active duty U.S. Coast Guard member, saw a Horses Help Heroes event posted on Facebook. She and her husband Curt, a Marine Corps veteran, brought their 2-year-old daughter, Emilee, all the way from Glen Burnie to come meet, pet, and ride a horse at Great Escape Stables.

Young Emilee didn’t fear the animal six times her height. She reached up to pet his nose and giggled when the pony snorted at her. Emilee rode for the first time and learned much from the day including, “The horsey says neigh.”

Emilee’s mom said, “I never knew there were places like this, and it’s such a joy to get the family out in the country and experience this. We will be back.”

The owner of Great Escape Stables, Stephanie Hedlund, said, “I really like working with this program. It’s great to see people click with the horses, and it’s such a positive experience for everyone. I’m glad we can help, and I look forward to hosting more events in the future.”

For more information about the program, to donate, or to volunteer, please see www.horseshelpheroes.org, and https://www.facebook.com/horseshelpheroes.org/. Founder Dean Tracy can also be reached at info@horseshelpheroes.org and 240-696-1732.

by Valerie Ormond

A Lucky Call to Serve

So excited to share this story featured in the beautiful Sidelines magazine. I had the opportunity to write this story about inspiring young Jessica Groen, her road to the U.S. Air Force Academy, and her special connection with our horse, Lucky. (Click above for full story.)

Lucky also happens to be a central character in books Believing In Horses and Believing In Horses, Too and has appeared in this blog frequently over the years.

Thank you to the Groen family and the Sidelines editorial staff for helping tell this story.

Military Writers – Julia Maki

As I head off to the Military Writers Society of America (MWSA) Conference, it seems a good time to recognize military writers.
On September 7, I have the privilege of joining award-winning authors Jack Woodville London and Don Helin to conduct the “Writing Your Story” one-day workshop at the Audie Murphy Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Center in San Antonio, Texas. [Read more…]

Taking Chances

AIE_VeteranWritingServices (1)It’s been three years since a Navy friend asked me if I was interested in applying for the Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE) program.  At the time I thought:

“Entrepreneur? Doesn’t that mean someone who wants to get rich?”

[Read more…]

A Fun, Timely, Sensitive, and Perceptive Story

blog_oct_2016 blog_oct_2016_2

By Valerie Ormond

J.B. Max Publishing, 2014

ISBN 978-0-9736330-4-7

Fiction, 246 pages

Soft Cover, Kindle

Reviewed by Margaret Evans

“Sadie felt so isolated. She couldn’t share or communicate her worry with her family. And living in a community with no other military people, no one else would understand. So she lived a life of constant secret fear which grew every day. She needed a distraction.” [Read more…]

Brave HEART – Horses Helping Military

BraveHEART_CoverI recently had the opportunity to work with the Brave HEART program on several writing projects. Brave HEART (Heroes Equine Adventure & Riding Therapy) “provides an environment where Veterans, military members, and their families come together to facilitate healing and strengthen relationships through equine interaction and outdoor activities.” A 501(c)(3) charitable organization, the Brave HEART program supports those who have served, or still serve, at the peaceful Larkspur Lane Farm setting in Hagerstown, Maryland.

While speaking with the founder and Executive Director, Laura Lane-Unsworth, we determined one of the Brave HEART projects would be a tri-fold brochure to help inform people about Brave HEART’s work. Laura was most helpful in getting me the top five points to get across, testimonials, and a general feel for the tone of the brochure. I put together the words and then enlisted the help of my talented graphic designer friend, Brittany Klein of Radiant Resolution, LLC, to display the information in a far more pleasing manner than I could. I am not a graphic designer – at all – and know the value good graphic designers bring to any visual project. [Read more…]