Operation Tohidu®, from a Cherokee word meaning peace of mind, body, and spirit, is a five-day intensive retreat at Melwood Veterans Services 108-acre Retreat Center in Nanjemoy, Maryland.
Each retreat serves 8-16 participants and is free to them. The retreats cater to all Veterans and service members as well as their spouses, partners, or caregivers on couples’ retreats. Retreats are for those who experienced PTSD, mild-TBI, anxiety, depression, moral injury or military sexual trauma.
When Veterans arrive, they commonly feel hesitant about interacting and getting out of their comfort zone. However, for most, the opportunity to reconnect with like-minded people is what motivates them to come.
Over the course of the five-day retreat, the group participates in outdoor activities, introspective exercises and therapeutic pursuits. These include yoga, acupuncture, and art therapy. Confidence-building physical challenges and group discussions are combined with proven techniques for the self-management of symptoms, stressors, and responses to reduce anxiety, alleviate depression and reframe traumatic experiences.
A big part of the success of the program is the group dynamic. Each group shares the experience of overcoming physical obstacles and challenges. There’s also activities designed to promote emotional recovery and peace with the past.
Staff members include certified recreational professionals and licensed clinical social workers. Many serve in part because of their own personal experience working through service-related trauma. Building on the shared camaraderie of military service, participants work to build a “new normal.” In fact, 74% of past participants say they remain in contact with other Operation Tohidu® alumni.
Retired Brigadier General David Blackledge heads Melwood Veterans Services, and is pleased with the results: 86% of the participants have reported a healthier, more positive view of themselves and cited progress toward a personal goal because of the retreat.
Blackledge said of those surveyed, 84% recognized that what they learned at the retreat helped them develop healthier relationships. He said over 90% of alumni say they continue to use at least one coping strategy learned at Operation Tohidu®.
In the last 24 months, Operation Tohidu® has served over 350 Veterans. In 2020, Melwood Veterans Services hopes to serve more than 500.
For more information, please connect with Melwood Veterans Services on social media.
To apply to attend an in-person or a virtual retreat, visit www.operationtohidu.org
The sharing of any non-VA information does not constitute an endorsement of products and services on part of the VA