On Tuesday, June 21st, 2022. Thirteen veterans met on the property of Andy and Jennifer Labadie near Coldwater, Michigan. The mission? To work together to try to understand the best way to combat the problem of veteran suicide.
We started the morning with a tour by Andy of the 53 acre property, including trails, camping areas and flag poles that can be seen from all over the property that were dedicated to veterans that Andy knew personally. We attempted to traverse a muddy patch and got the golf cart stuck in the mud, so that we an early challenge on a productive day.
When people started to arrive we put a tent up over a picnic table next to the Victory Gardens where we held our initial conversation. For some it was the first time we had met, and for other the first time in a long time, so once we got comfortable we got down to business. After an hour or more of conversation on a very hot day, we all made it into the air conditioning for a lunch provided by the Labadie family.
After lunch, we had a meeting around the kitchen island and the dining room table to discuss current proposals under construction and how that connected to our previous conversation. There seemed to be a consensus that veterans just want to be valued and treated with kindness, and that the most important part of any new solution would be motivating veterans to try it.
The rest of the afternoon we broke into small groups to discuss further while participating in conference calls with veterans who couldn't make it. Then, to conclude the day, we hopped on the golf carts and headed down to the lake to do a group mindfulness exercise.
After I went home, some of the people remaining went out on the lake for some fun. I'm told that was some of the best mindful activity that took place that day, as people were engrossed in the fun.
A very productive day, indeed. I hope to have gatherings like this several more times in the remaining months of this year. The mission is not yet complete. There is a lot more to do.