To All First Reponders
Twenty-four hours a day, everyday of the year, first responders like you are there for us no matter what. I thank you for all that you do for the communities across this county. Most people have no understanding of what you have seen, smelled, heard, touched, or even tasted in the line of duty, and they certainly have no idea how those experiences get tucked away in your memories, never to be forgotten.
I am the wife of a former first responder who, after 33 years of service, had to leave the job due to post-traumatic stress disorder. P.T.S.D. is the body’s response to a traumatic or life-threatening event or an event your brain perceives as traumatic or threatening. My husband lost part of himself. He lost his self-confidence and his pride in the job he loved so much. His trust in the system was lost due to being threatened with loss of his job, ridiculed and made to feel weak and of little worth, and he was denied a promotion he had earned. I lost a piece of my husband to P.T.S.D. While he struggled with the symptoms, our daughters and I struggled with what we could do to help him through his nightmares, his anger and mood swings, and his distancing himself from us. I missed his laugh and his smile. One thing about P.T.S.D. that you must understand is that it affects more than just the responder; it also affects family, friends, and co-workers. Some of you may not have had “that call” or the trigger that brings back those images, but in your career, some of you will. Through counseling and support, my husband regained some of himself. A move to the serenity of the Northwoods of WI has added another layer of healing, which brings me to the point of this letter.
I am the founder of a nonprofit corporation called Responders Retreat. Our board of directors receives no pay for our work. We want to offer first responders who are struggling with P.T.S.D. symptoms an opportunity to open a conversation about their struggles. The year-round retreat will offer a peaceful environment, free of judgment, where responders will be surrounded by mentors in their field and a counselor.
One call can change a life in a second, and it takes one experience to trigger a struggle for which no one was prepared. But it only takes one person to reach out, one person to stand up, or one person to speak up so that person who is struggling may know and understand that they are still valued, cared about, and supported. A good friend told my husband, “We want you to know that we are all behind you…we know that we are only one call away from where you are.” That meant more to my husband than his friend knows.
I need you to be that one person. I am asking you for a donation of “A Buck ($1) a Badge.” One dollar won’t buy a bottle of Coke, a gallon of gas, or a box of cereal, but your dollar will help so many first responders across this country experience hope and healing. It will allow those experiencing P.T.S.D. to have a moment to just breathe, in an environment created specifically to provide respite for first responders from any emergency response agency across the country.
To donate send cash or a check made out to Responders Retreat, Inc. and mail it to:
River Valley Bank
P.O. Box 1135
Minocqua, Wisconsin 54548
To donate through PayPal visit our website at www.respondersretreat.org, or on facebook.com/respondersretreat. If you have specific questions I can be reached at 715-544-7994.
Liz Bartholomew, Founder
Responders Retreat, Inc. EIN 82-1776106