NAVARRE — Damon Friedman, president of the Navarre-based nonprofit group Shield of Faith (SOF) Missions, wants to give veterans with PTSD a sense of hope.
The SOF Missions' Surrender Project is a three-step program in which veterans — Friedman calls them warriors — get the support they deserve.
"It's a holistic approach," Friedman said. "PTSD affects your career, your marriage. It affects how you see yourself. We want to help get these warriors on the path of wellness."
Each warrior goes through the three phases in nine months to a year. Friedman said the program to tailored to meet the exact needs of each individual. The first phase, psychological, is a partner program with Mighty Oaks Warrior Project, a peer-based discipleship program. The second phase, physical, is a partnership with EXOS, a private training facility and finally. The third phase is spiritual.
The Surrender Project most recently has had warriors from the Air Force and the Marines. Friedman said he would like to see all branches of the military represented.
Friedman understands the challenges military service men and women face as they return home. Friedman is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who served four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, he and his wife Danya founded SOF Missions to serve those in need.
Last year, SOF Missions hosted the inaugural Healing Our Nation's Warriors Gala to help raise money for The Surrender Project. The event helped sponsor three veterans. This year Friedman said he wants to raise enough to sponsor 12. The gala will be at 7 p.m. June 23 at New World Landing at 600 S. Palafox St. in Pensacola. It's fitting, because June is PTSD Awareness Month.
"Our intent is to increase our sponsorship to 100 veterans a year," Friedman said. "This is a ginormous task, but this is our heart and it's worth it. Above all, our warriors deserve it."
This year's gala will feature a testimony from one of the Surrender Project graduates. He was a homeless Marine dealing with issues on his own, as well as guest speaker Chaplain Col. Scott McChyrstal. Through the help of the Surrender Project, he was able to find a place to live and a full-time job.
Success stories like that are what drives Friedman to keep expanding the work of SOF Missions.
"I see these warriors kind of like a phoenix rising from the ashes," he said. "We are making a huge positive impact in our community and lives are being radically changed."
For tickets to the Healing Our Nation's Warriors Gala or for more information about The Surrender Project, visit sofmissions.com/gala.