A rural retreat
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A PATHH student participates
in Horse Inspired Growth and
Healing, an activity that helps
participants recognize and experience the difference between
connection and control.
IN 2010, RETIRED Master Chief Petty
O;cer Ken Falke began dropping by the
two local military hospitals in Washington,
D.C., to visit wounded soldiers from the
Afghanistan war. “My wife, Julia, and I
invited many of them and their families to
our home for barbecues and time away from
their hectic hospital lives,” said Falke, a
When they saw the joy these people felt
while relaxing in a rural setting in the nearby
Blue Ridge Mountains, the Falkes decided to
donate 37 acres of their 200-acre family
estate to create Boulder Crest Retreat (BCR;
In 2013, the nonprofit organization
opened its doors to military members with
two missions. ;e ;rst, their Family Rest
and Reconnection Retreat, lets combat veterans and active-duty personnel and their
families stay free of charge in one of four
beautifully appointed, handicapped-accessi-ble cabins on the property. ;ey can spend
anywhere from two to seven nights participating in ;shing, music, art, archery, gardening, cooking and a host of other
therapeutic and recreational activities or just
enjoying the setting.
BCR’s second mission is o;ering veterans
the free Progressive and Alternative Training
for Healing Heroes (PATHH), a seven-day
program for recovering from stress and deal-
ing with the a;ermath of deployment.
“Our professional sta; assists veterans
in making a meaningful transition and
helps them become productive in civilian
life,” says Falke.
He explains, “Traditionally, when someone is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress
disorder, they receive medication and a
referral to a therapist.” Statistically, he says,
most don’t go to their ;rst therapy session,
and those who do hardly ever return for a
second time. In comparison, a;er BCR, follow-ups show a 500 percent improvement.
Paul Downs knows firsthand how it
feels to be hypervigilant and fueled on
adrenaline all the time from his military service. As a member of the U.S. Marine Corps
for 10 years, he served in a total of 17 di;erent countries.
“A;er I hung up the uniform, the daily
stress and drive I’d experienced in the
Marines wasn’t appreciated when I became
a civilian,” he says. “I started a downward
spiral because I was used to always responding and being angry all the time. Going
through the PATHH program took me
from a bad place and put me in a better one.
It’s not magical or forced, but the participant makes the choice to choose a better life