David Lynch Foundation Hosts Gala for Soldiers at Fort Hamilton

New York, N.Y. ┬áRecently I had the privilege of attending an open-air gala at historic Fort Hamilton Army Garrison underneath the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn for the David Lynch Foundation‘s Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW) and the film Code 9: Officer Needs Assistance. Then, I heard first lady Michelle Obama mention Operation Warrior Wellness in her dynamic DNC speech. A good week for the organization!

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Trisha Fisher, Joely Fisher, Brooklynite and entertainer Connie Stevens, Betty Davis, and Francesca DeVito. Photo: David Lynch Foundation.

Speakers at the new York City gala included U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm, Operation Warrior Wellness national co-chair and WWII fighter pilot Jerry Yellin, FDNY Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano, and OWW national co-chair and retired Chief Master Sergeant Ed Schloeman.

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Speakers included New York Fire Department Commissioner Salvatore J. Cassano. Photo: DLF.

Fort Hamilton is where we opened fire on British ships clogging our harbor on July 4, 1776 – talk about history coming to life! The benefit was for U.S. soldiers and first responders, a fitting connection to the venue. Even better, the theme of the night was a fitting birthday celebration of Brooklyn’s beloved actress and singer Connie Stevens who I remember vividly as a child. She has been helping our uniformed heroes throughout her entire career. She was also on numerous Bob Hope USO specials, including his Christmas Show from the Persian Gulf in 1988. I was invited to the gala by Lorraine Cancro, MSW, director of the Global Stress Initiative.

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Joely Fisher, WWII fighter pilot Jerry Yellin, Trisha Fisher and CMS Ed Schloeman (from left to right). Photo: DLF.

Public officials such as New York’s Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano called for greater support of Operation Warrior Wellness. “After 9/11, we were wounded – both physically and psychologically. But, the psychological wounds were much harder to detect – and they’re still going on today. If you support the David Lynch Foundation, you can support the veterans and first responders in getting the help on the problems that you can’t see,” the FDNY Commissioner told those assembled.

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Command Sgt. Major Prince, the Highland Divas Margaret Kelly, Amy Rivard and Marla Kavanaugh with Col. Jines. Photo: DLF.

U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm reinforced the Fire Commissioner’s words: “I want to thank you for supporting this incredible endeavor. It’s not even that it’s so cost-effective. It’s that it’s so effective: That this could change the lives and save the lives of so many of our heroes. If we really want to honor them and give back just a little, then we need your support.”

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Tony LoBianco spoke at the Operation Warrior Wellness gala hosted by The David Lynch Foundation. Photo: DLF.

An inspiring highlight of the evening was the triumphant story of Luke Jensen, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan who has overcome a horrific struggle with PTSD through Transcendental Meditation. According to Jensen, “TM helped me relax right away, sleep better, and cope with anxiety to the point that I no longer needed anxiety medication.”

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Open-air gala at historic Fort Hamilton underneath the Verrazano Bridge in Brooklyn.
Photo: JEA Productions.

Operation Warrior Wellness national co-chair and retired Chief Master Sergeant Ed Schloeman, a former Marine in Vietnam, told me after the gala:

What an honor it was to bring all of our friends together to honor our veterans, first responders – and Connie Stevens – at a location where America’s first veterans were produced during “The Battle of Brooklyn.”

We need to support all those who are fighting their “hidden wounds of war” – Post Traumatic Stress. And we are doing that through The David Lynch Foundation’s Operation Warrior Wellness, which I co-founded with World War II Combat Fighter Pilot Jerry Yellin.

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Debbie Ortiz of the upcoming film “Code 9 Officer Needs Assistance,” the co-sponsoring entity of the gala, spoke on PTSD and police suicide. Photo: DLF.

The gala also shed light on the severe and under-recognized issue of PTSD among police officers. Deborah Ortiz, event co-organizer and co-producer of the upcoming documentary Code Nine: Officer Needs Assistance, described her own family’s struggle with PTSD: “After retiring from a 22-year law-enforcement career, my husband began to suffer from the horrors of PTSD. I watched the man that I once knew sink into a world of darkness and despair.” The number-one killer of police officers is suicide, Debbie said.

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Bernie Artz, a WWII B-24 Tail Gunner and POW, received an award for his service. Photo: DLF.

Fortunately, Debbie could share a happy ending to her family’s story: “TM has literally changed our lives. After four psychiatrists, two therapists, and thousands of dollars, my husband has actually, finally started to feel better.”

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Daniel Rodriguez sang our National Anthem with Samantha Schloeman as Ed Schloeman stands at the podium. Photo: DLF.

Operation Warrior Wellness, I learned, has partnered with the Jericho Project of New York to provide TM to homeless and low-income veterans who are living at the Project’s Fordham Village residence, located in South Bronx. The leadership and staff of the Project have now learned to meditate.

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Col. Jines, WWII fighter pilot Jerry Yellin and CSM Prince at the Fort Hamilton gala. Photo: DLF.

The David Lynch Foundation is rapidly expanding its programs for inner-city school children, veterans and military personnel with PTSD, and women and girls who are victims of violence. This fall and next spring, the Foundation will host a series of awareness- and fund-raising events to make TM-based programs more widely available. I look forward to leaning more about low-cost and effective ways to combat Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

David Lynch Foundation | 654 Madison Avenue – Suite 806 | NYC 10065

Operation Warrior Wellness (OWW) is a division of the David Lynch Foundation dedicated to delivering Transcendental Meditation to U.S. veterans and military personnel. David Lynch Foundation events plans include:

Oct. 11, 2012: Operation Warrior Wellness Conference, Des Moines, IA
Oct. 23, 2012: National Education Summit, NYC
Dec. 13, 2012: Third Annual “Change Begins Within” Benefit Gala, NYC
Spring 2013: Healing and Empowering Women and Girls Summit, Los Angeles
Spring 2013: Operation Warrior Wellness Summit, Washington, D.C.

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About Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens

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Jim Luce: Thought Leaders & Global Citizens
Jim Luce (www.lucefoundation.org) writes and speaks on Thought Leaders and Global Citizens. Bringing 26 years management experience within both investment banking and the non-profit sector, Jim has worked for Daiwa Bank, Merrill Lynch, a spin-off of Lazard Freres, and two not-for profit organizations and a foundation he founded. As Founder & CEO of Orphans International Worldwide (www.oiww.org), he is working with a strong network of committed professionals to build interfaith, interracial, Internet-connected orphanages in Haiti and Indonesia, and creating a new, family-care model for orphans in Sri Lanka and Tanzania.