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Dryhootch: Using Coffee & Conversation to Prevent Veteran Suicides

Posted May 5, 2011--10:00 p.m.

Heather Morales' story is all too common. Mental combat wounds sustained in the Iraq War led her ex-husband to kill himself.
During an interview in her La Crosse home, Morales said, "I never in a million years thought he'd take his own life. The toughest part is him not being here for our daughter Katherine".

Heather's is a story Bob Curry has heard far too often. Curry, a Vietnam veteran, who has post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) says, "They don't train you to come back to civilian life. We need to take care of them when they get home."

Curry is co-founder of Dryhootch--a Milwaukee non-profit coffeehouse that serves much more than coffee. "The mission is, we say, to help the veteran and their family who survived the war to survive the peace. When you're in the military, your brother is the person next to you, or your sister, and so we want to create that bond here and help
the veteran, who gets back and their family members, by being their
battle buddy here."

Veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan facing addiction or mental health issues can talk to other vets in counseling sessions,
or they can just talk informally over coffee.

Iraq War veteran Manuel "Manny" Mora also has PTSD, and has found it therapeutic to talk to fellow vets at Dryhootch and, "have people to connect to, and let me know that I'm not the only one out there. There are other people in the same situation as I was."

Mora says he saw comrades severely wounded next to him in Iraq, and was under constant pressure there. "Just that constant paranoia of not knowing if you're going to get killed one day....kind of that worst feeling to go out of the gate and not know if you're going to come back or not. I imploded from the inside, and once that happened, I pretty much exploded on everything else outside, which left me homeless, pretty much sleeping in my car."

Curry says, "When I first met Manny a year and a half ago, Manny didn't
talk." Thanks to Dryhootch, Manny's not only talking now...he's leading veterans counseling sessions there. Mora says, "My way of paying back is just helping other veterans in any way I
can."

Curry explains one of the biggest challenges facing veterans who have PTSD. "It's hard to admit when you're trained to be a warrior and you come back and someone says you have a mental disorder. If you don't punch them in the face, you at least put a lot of denial in front of that--that I'm fine."

He can relate to what today's veterans have been through, because he's been down that path himself. Curry fought in Vietnam, and faced an even bigger personal battle years later. "The wheels started falling off my life when the Gulf War hit and all of these nightmares started coming back and so it was off to the races. I thought I was losing my mind, I was drinking quite a bit, and my life finally essentially crashed in 2002."

Bob Curry killed a man in a drunken driving crash that year.
A jury found him not guilty by reason of mental disease--post traumatic stress disorder caused by his service in the Vietnam War.

Curry has very personal reasons to help his fellow veterans.
"When you see someone who went through hell and they come home and for some reason they find it's more appropriate they end their life because they don't want to put their family through any more pain, there's a lot of anger there..and even though I don't voice it, it's because it's all stuffed inside of me. "

The help and support V-A Doctors and other veterans provided to Curry on the road to recovery inspired him to co-found Dryhootch, a place serving coffee, but more importantly, serving those who have served our nation.

"We looked at each other and said, we can't let this happen again..and that's how Dryhootch formed. We need to not only send these people to war when the country calls them, but we need to take care of them when they get home."

Curry says veterans in the Madison area are trying to start a Dryhootch chapter here. "Hootch", by the way, is what Vietnam vets called a home or hut. Dryhootch is centered around coffee instead of alcohol, like some other veterans' gathering places, because drinking can make things worse for those who have post traumatic stress disorder.

For more information on Dryhootch, or to support its mission, go to
http://dryhootch.org/

or call 414-763-2785

If you are a veteran or a family member experiencing a crisis, you can call the number below 24/7

Veterans Crisis Line (confidential)
1-800-273-TALK. Press "1"

Chat confidentially on-line at
http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/Veterans/Default.aspx


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