Honor House

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Honor House helps link veterans who come back from combat to community resources. Honor House President and Founder Brian Mancini talks about the organization.

RICHARD RUELAS: Monday is memorial day, a day when we remember the people who died while serving in the armed forces. Honor house is an organization helping to transition Veterans returning from combat. Joining me today to talk about Honor house is Brian Mancini, the President and founder of the Honor house. Thanks for joining us, and this is more than just a charity you decided to start. This really stems from your personal story.

BRIAN MANCINI: Absolutely. Absolutely. Thank you for having us, by the way. Thank you for having me. Yeah, this is kind of a by-product of my military service. I served for just under 13 years. I was medically retired after being severely wounded in 2007. I had to retire out to the Phoenix V.A. And there were some challenges there that had come to light across the media and the national news. But --

RICHARD RUELAS: Your injuries were fairly severe.

BRIAN MANCINI: Yeah, absolutely. So I spent three years and eight months at Walter reed getting my face rebuilt. My whole forehead is titanium. My orbital socket has been rebuilt, my palate was blasted out. My cheek bone has been rebuilt from my hip. My sinuses have been rebuilt, and I have a number of muscle-skeletal injuries and shrapnel all over my body.

RICHARD RUELAS: And in previous wars you might be an anomaly, one of the more severely wounded people we might see but in this war, you probably saw at Walter reed, you are not alone in having severe injuries that have you recovered from.

BRIAN MANCINI: Yeah, it's the evolution of war. We have had advancements in medicine and technology which has allowed a lot of the guys and women to survive some of the injuries. We have body armor and up-armored vehicles now. A lot of people who would have been put into an expectant category from the Vietnam era are making it home today, because of these advancements in medicine and technology. So we're here and in the community.

RICHARD RUELAS: The challenges of coming back -- Walter reed gets you physically back, and you look great. But now it's getting you back into society, getting you working, getting you mentally healed. How are we doing in that department as far as your concerned.

BRIAN MANCINI: I think that there is an evolutionary gap. I think we're learning some of that with the NFL and football and the concussions. I think that there's been some education that's -- going to shine onto the issues with the head injuries. I think that we can parlay that same understanding into the last 14 years of war on two major battlefronts and conflicts. And the main weapon of choice being the I.D., the improvised explosive device, so a lot of our men and women are experiencing blast injuries when they're in theater, and they are having to deal with the repercussions when they get out.

RICHARD RUELAS: So your charity is built on helping veterans heal mentally in ways that you found productive yourself, right?

BRIAN MANCINI: Yeah, mentally, emotionally and physically. We really try to take the veterans as a whole, physically, emotionally and spiritually and realize there's been wounds across all spectrums. And we try to create a unique experience at the Honor House, an operation healing journey. We create customized calendars for Veterans. Utilizing the resources from within the community, from the nonprofit sector and the for-profit sector, and our emphasis is really making the veterans home the center point of care, and providing them alternatives that they may not normally be eligible for or be able to get through the V.A.

RICHARD RUELAS: What are some of those alternatives, and I think that we are showing photos of those now.

BRIAN MANCINI: Yeah, absolutely. You know, acupuncture, the massage therapy, chiropractic care. Those are healthy pain management modalities that don't impair the cognitive function like the medications do. We also have --

RICHARD RUELAS: The V.A., I mean, I think we read some of the criticisms, there is a lot of pills being passed around on the V.A. You are trying to get people to do yoga, tai chi, things that are other than taking a pill.

BRIAN MANCINI: You know, our Veterans only know what they are taught, and what we're trying to teach them is a different algorithm of being healthier for the long-term. If we can introduce them to healthy pain management modalities, some meditative practices like yoga and tai chi and deep breathing exercises, outdoor recreational therapies and animal therapies, along with music and art, and we create a customized healing calendar for Veterans. Teaching them how to integrate things into their daily routine, weekly routine and monthly routine to prevent some of these pain management, PTSD symptoms from getting out of whack. And when they do, when you do have a pain flare-up or if you have extra agitation and irritation, from your day, you have something that is within a very close proximity of your home that you would you have identified that can help relieve that.

RICHARD RUELAS: What worked for you? What was the first therapy that really clicked for you?

BRIAN MANCINI: You know, I started writing early on, and that was a good way for me to express myself.

RICHARD RUELAS: Riding a horse?

BRIAN MANCINI: No, writing.

RICHARD RUELAS: Oh, writing.

BRIAN MANCINI: Combat poetry. I was a big fan of fly fishing. That got me out and into nature and, you know, really overwhelmed my senses in a positive way, which is kind of an opposite of combat.

RICHARD RUELAS: Ok. So, that worked for you, and then you discovered the other types of therapy, just naturally?

BRIAN MANCINI: You know, being a medic I kind of had an idea of the issues that I was suffering from. And I am kind of a model of what this generation is really suffering from. And that's the traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress, and then the pain management. And so what -- I just went on a course with the knowledge that I had in medicine from being a medic. Found healthy things to manage the pain. Found, in the community, found healthy things to manage the PTSD symptoms, and then integrated outdoor recreational therapies. I put a 45-page concept paper on the way ahead and started getting the medical community involved. We launched a 12-week PTSD program with the local behavioral health organization doing these therapies. That's called advancing heroes and we launched the operation healing journey where we pick them up and create a healing calendar right from their home.

RICHARD RUELAS: And you are trying to, I guess, the long range plan is to create a house and the information is available at the thehonorhouse.org. When we celebrate Memorial Day there is a lot of Veterans who might -- who would be people we memorialize if you are really trying to help out. I really appreciate you joining us this evening.

BRIAN MANCINI: Thank you for having us.

RICHARD RUELAS: Good luck to you.

BRIAN MANCINI: I appreciate it. Thank you.

RICHARD RUELAS: That's our show for tonight, for from all of us here at Horizonte and channel 8, thank you for watching. I'm Richard Ruelas. Have a great evening.

Funding for Horizonte is made possible by the contributions from the friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Brian Mancini:Honor House President and Founder

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