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NEWS | Oct. 22, 2019

Program helps Soldiers cope using the power of breath

By Maj. Olha Vandergriff 652nd Regional Support Group

“I am flesh, bones; I am skin, soul; I am human, nothing more than a human,” sings Sevdaliza, an Iranian-Dutch songwriter. Avant-pop, alternative and other genres of music devote much attention to the expression and acknowledgement of human experiences. “I breath in and out,” concludes Sevdaliza, accentuating the importance of breath.

Capt. Amanda Carling, company commander, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 652nd Regional Support Group, believes in the power of service to others.

Carling began her Army career in 2000 after enlisting as a legal specialist. She commissioned as an officer in 2010, later switching to the become a logistician in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Her service to others doesn’t stop while wearing the uniform. In her civilian job with the Veteran Benefit Administration, Boise Regional Office, she serves the veteran community as a veteran service representative.

“I do behind the scenes paperwork. I see 10 to 15 claims a day. I develop them and see all the documentation from the doctors,” says Carling. “There is no other honorable job to have; I get to serve the veterans.”

But Carling and her husband, Joshua, do more than that. Together, they teach veterans stress management techniques. Joshua is a retired U.S. Army Soldier who also continues to serve, volunteering his time as a veteran facilitator coordinator. He received training in Washington, D.C., as part of the Project Welcome Home Troops organization. He attended a five-day free workshop that is offered all over the world. The workshop focuses on mediation, yoga and, most essentially, breathing.

“The workshop gives you tools for your toolbox,” said Carling. “If we have these tools with us before going into stressful environment, we can use them in advance. We can use them on the spot.”

The beauty of breath is the fact that one can help themselves change their mental state of mind. Carling learned about the program from one of her mentors, Maj. Treone Cooley.

“She said, "Hey, you have to try this; you are the one who needs it,' ” Carling said.

Cooley said she thinks the program is important because it is the responsibility of leaders to look for proactive things to help ones self first and then help others.

“The more capable we are, the better it is for the entire world,” Cooley said. “The impact is huge, and it starts here. People always ask, 'How do you make change?' And it starts with you.”

Symptoms of combat- and service-related post-traumatic stress disorder can affect every part of a Soldier’s life, well after their career has ended.

Leslye Moore recognized the need for intervention. Moore, a resident of Boise, Idaho, founded Project Welcome Home Troops, due to her own experiences.

Moore suffered from post traumatic stress after serving in Rwanda and Croatia and dealing with issues ranging from refugees, human trafficking, and war widows. Moore realized she needed her own stress-management techniques to deal with the trauma from her humanitarian work.

Today, Moore balances her training and work in Eastern philosophy with a wealth of skills acquired in over 25 years of leadership in key positions. She saw utility for anyone who went through long-term stress.

“It’s like putting the oxygen mask on myself and then helping others do the same,” Moore explained.

Moore met Carling during one of the veteran facilitators courses.

“I’m like her big sister, mentor and trainer,” Moore said.

She explained the benefits of the course to Carling and others. “All the techniques taught in the course can help with sleeplessness, unregulated emotions like anger spikes, and hyper-vigilance. l often hear, 'You helped me get myself back.' ”

The program is completely driven by the military members and veterans. Carling met her husband through Project Welcome Home Troops. It’s a love story of its own.

“I was able to fall in love with myself and find someone who fell in love with me," Carling said.

Together, the Carling family continues to talk about the program and the power of breath, helping others achieve the balance and happiness they have. Nothing could be simpler, yet have such a profound impact.

“How long can you go without breathing?” Moore asked. “And it’s free, and it’s everywhere.”