I can’t count how many times I’ve looked into nonprofit organizations, especially those serving the military community, and can’t figure out what they actually do. Their mission may sound great on paper or on a glossy website full of jargon to appeal to donors but when I look for the action behind the words, I come up with more questions than answers. It’s completely frustrating, and sometimes infuriating, to be left in the dark on how an organization that is designed to serve actually serves.
Every organization has their elevator pitch or log line to quickly explain who they serve.
All Secure Foundation’s is simple:
ALL SECURE FOUNDATION ASSISTS SPECIAL OPERATION ACTIVE DUTY AND COMBAT VETERANS, AND THEIR FAMILIES, HEAL FROM THE INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR.
This sentence quickly explains to others who we serve and the basis of our mission. Hopefully our conversation continues into a longer discussion about our mission and what we actually do to fulfill our mission.
So, what does All Secure Foundation actually do?
When I met Tom it was a pan to the face, this guy needs help. And of course he did, he spent 20 years in the most secretive and elite military unit, conducting thousands of missions and countless deployments. He watched his close friends, brothers, die, sometimes in his arms. He became completely shut off to the world, reclining and isolating. He buried every bit of emotions that he could because feeling was a pretty painful thing to do. In our time together I took the brunt of his anger and pain. In time I too needed help. I started looking for answers, and for that help, and it was hard to come by. I knew then and there that we had to be part of the solution. We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. Our first year was primarily research and talking to the community Tom worked in for so many years, about the help they needed and couldn’t get. We heard 9 times out of 10, “please help me at home.” With that we started to focus on the couples fighting to survive on the homefront.
In 2019, we developed the Special Operations Combat Warrior Couples Retreat Workshop alongside a trauma and marriage expert and therapist, Stacey Stone. The retreat workshop focuses on three components in a relationship: safety, security and connection. Stacey uses proven methods and techniques of helping couples heal from trauma with a type of therapy called Emotional Focuses Therapy (EFT), which was developed by Dr. John Gottman and Dr. Sue Johnson over 20 years ago.
The weekend-long Special Operations couple’s retreats are designed to help warrior couples confront issues, work on triggers for both couples, and to create awareness around toxic or negative cycles. While there are a few classroom sessions, we didn’t want a death by power point workshop, so we made sure to include activities both as a group and individually that help create further awareness of issues and more importantly, how to redirect and change negative cycles into positive ones. The couples leave with greater awareness and tools to rebuild and reconnect, making the relationship stronger.
In September, ASF held our first Special Operations Warrior Couple’s Retreat Workshop at Big Cedar Lodge outside Branson, MO. This beautiful location, isolated in the hills of the Ozark Mountains and Table Rock Lake, allowed for couples to relax and decompress while attending classes and activities. Every activity was specifically designed by Stacey and ASF to aid in awareness of issues in the relationship and how to overcome them. It’s no small challenge to work a weeks-worth of information into a Friday – Sunday retreat, so in 2020 we extended the retreat workshop to include another day, which is now a Thursday – Sunday experience.
10 couples from Special Operations including Green Berets, Rangers and Delta Force, came into the retreat skeptical and reserved but left as a team, a unit, and with tools to rebuild and reconnect. There was some tough stuff to uncover and some new pathways to be cut, but by Sunday afternoon, every single couple surveyed said that they gained awareness, tools, and would recommend it to other couples to attend.
One SF active duty wife wrote a few weeks after the September ASF retreat workshop to us:
“Life with a soldier in the SF community means a lot of time apart and therefore connecting as a couple can be very difficult. Being able to leave daily chaos and distractions behind meant we could focus on ourselves and our marriage. Stacey was able to fit in meaningful lessons in the most relaxed sessions. She gave us guided exercises that we continue to use and see positive results that continue to strengthen our bond. Tom and Jen Satterly’s passion for serving and supporting Special Operations community was evident in every aspect of the weekend. We highly recommend All Secure Foundation for anyone who may be struggling in their marriage or having connection issues.”
“When I listened to other’s stories, I connected with what they had to say on so many levels, “like wow that is us or that is me.” I felt like I was not alone in my thoughts and actions anymore. I felt more at home with this group than any of my civilian friends and like they “got it” where others have not. The discussions also triggered a lot of thoughts and ways Matt and I have dealt with issues that we could share with the younger couples and what works and what does not work. If our words help one couple avoid unnecessary pain or save their marriage and family, it is worth it. All in all, it was a very successful weekend for Matt and I and I can’t say enough good things about the entire weekend.” – Carol Wilson, Special Operations Veteran Wife
“I want to say before I get started that I have never, ever been to or attended a marriage/couples retreat. I never believed in them. However, I went in with eyes wide open keeping all biases at bay. I’m glad I did.
I connected with so many people and couples that weekend because of the camaraderie of people cut from the same cloth. There wasn’t any pressure, except what someone put on themselves. Someone could relate to you. Someone walked that same piece of ground as you. Someone had a near enough experience to help.
There is no other connection than that of the special operations community. We are cut from a different cloth but we are of the same ilk. The All Secure Foundation Marriage/Couples Retreats are amazing! You have given myself, my wife and as a couple, the power to take control of those demons and the takeaway exercises to grow stronger in love, life and self control. Thank you Tom, Jen and Stacey. Special thanks to those of you behind the scenes who I’ll never get a chance to thank or shake your hand.” Matt Wilson, Retired Special Operations
The weekend was so successful that All Secure Foundation is proud to offer 6 Special Operations Warrior Couple Retreat Workshops in 2020! All expenses are covered for the warrior couple from time of arrival at Big Cedar Lodge to departure on Sunday afternoon. The generosity of our donors make this weekend possible, thank you to each and every donor, your dollars have gone to something very special and generational.
In addition to Special Operations Couple Workshop Retreats, Tom and I spend time traveling and talking with Special Operations active duty combat warriors on bases across the country. It is critical to dispel the myth that to be strong, you have to bury your trauma. In fact we teach quite the opposite, that taking steps to heal from trauma is a sign of great warrior strength.
In 2020 we will be attending more speaking engagements at Special Operations units and will be adding a spouse/caregiver specific speaking engagements on bases as well. All Secure Foundation was founded on helping warrior families, not just the warrior, because war takes it’s toll on everyone in the household. We must work to heal all parties involved.
So what else are you guys doing in 2020? Beyond retreat workshops, active duty seminars, All Secure Foundation is raising money to develop and build online courses for warriors and their families! There are a few more things in the works, but you’ll have to stay tuned for those updates.
There is no stopping, we promise to do our part to make sure that no one is left behind on this homefront battlefield.
Thank you for your support in 2019. From all of us at All Secure Foundation, have a very Happy Holiday season and New Year!