Boot Campaign laces up against veteran suicide

Elizabeth Howe
September 18, 2018 - 4:23 pm

Photo courtesy of Dreamstime

Out of the 45,000 registered veteran service organizations, only four percent work in healthcare. Only one percent provides more than one million dollars a year in support programs. Boot Campaign does both.

“It all started when five civilian Texas women read 'Lone Survivor,'” said Chris Talcott, vice president of operations and program development at Boot Campaign. “They were so impacted by the story, about Marcus Luttrell, they felt like they needed to do something.”

When Boot Campaign started in 2009, it was a media blitz — put as many celebrities in boots as possible to close the gap between the 99 percent of Americans who don’t serve and the less than one percent that does.

“You walk around town and I don’t think people realize we’re in the longest running war of our nation’s history. You wouldn’t see that unless it directly affected you,” Talcott said. “So they got celebrities in boots to raise awareness and recognize that we have a lot of men and women who are fighting and have been fighting for years to defend us.”

After two years, Boot Campaign had the momentum to become a nonprofit. They started supporting veterans with loans, bill payments, home improvement, transition assistance, educational financial aid and more. Four years and millions of dollars in support later, Boot Campaign expanded its operations yet again, this time with the help of Marcus Luttrell's twin brother. 

“Marcus Luttrell’s twin brother, Morgan, also a Navy Seal, was in a horrific helicopter crash and suffered a severe traumatic brain injury,” Talcott said. “He had the opportunity to go through different facilities to get treatment, and he realized this was a tremendously important area that he could impact using his own experiences.”

After retiring from the Navy, Luttrell went to the University of Texas, Dallas to study cognitive science. While finishing his Masters, he joined Boot Campaign and started its health and wellness program.

“He built it based on his own medical experiences — his experience with providers, the experiences of his friends in that field and the experiences of people he served with,” said Talcott. “He focused on what we call the big five invisible wounds: traumatic brain injury, PTSD, addiction, sleep issues and chronic pain.”

Boot Campaign funds travel to treatment centers and, in as many cases as possible, the treatment itself — even if that treatment takes weeks to complete.

“85 percent of veterans that have visible wounds get treatment. Less than half of the veterans who experience invisible wounds even seek treatment,” said Talcott. “Somehow we’ve manifested the idea that these invisible wounds are something to be embarrassed about. There’s a stigma. We’ve got to fight that stigma. It’s a wound. It’s an injury, just like anything else, and it needs to be treated.”  

Since its founding, Boot Campaign has provided $19 million in veteran support and continues to provide over $1 million annually. Treatment for each individual veteran averages between $28,000 and $30,000 but can be as high as $50,000. To Boot Campaign, these amounts are conquerable and more than worth the expense.

“We’re changing the trajectory of the life of an individual that served our nation,” said Talcott. “Getting them back to being a viable leader for our world, but more importantly, getting them back to their communities and their families.”

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