Melwood Operation Tohidu’s Clinical Director Dr. Mary Vieten, CDA Medical Service Corps, USN (Ret). Photo by Dick Myers.

California, MD — The Patuxent Partnership (TPP) doesn’t hold annual meetings like most organizations. Granted, Executive Director Bonnie Green always gives a brief rundown of the past year’s activities and hands out the annual report. But the bulk of the meetings are turned over to community groups to inform TPP’s members about what they do.

“This is a very loving, engaged, caring community,” Green said at the conclusion of this year’s meeting Oct. 28 at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center. This year’s topic was programs for veterans. “There is no better topic for our members than the health and well-being of our veterans,” she said. Many of Patuxent Partnership’s members are connected with the defense industry.

According to the organization’s website www.paxpartnership.org “TPP fosters collaboration and the sharing of knowledge and expertise across a diverse network including:  educational institutions; industry; local, state and federal governments; and TPP employees and members. TPP also promotes STEM education and workforce development within the local community by hosting programs of interest to NAVAIR, NAWCAD and the broader DoD community.”

The meeting attendees heard presentations from wounded warrior and current NAVAIR employee Jesse Blanton and from representatives of the Greenwell Foundation and Melwood’s Operation Tohidu.

Attendees were enthralled by the presentation by representatives of the unique Melwood program. According to information supplied in advance by TPP, “Operation Tohidu is a rehabilitation program designed for a growing population of war fighters living with post-traumatic stress, mild-to-moderate traumatic brain injury and other deployment-related issues. A holistic retreat, Operation Tohidu allows veterans to share a common experience and heal in a safe environment.”

What makes Operation Tohidu unique in the country is that they don’t medicate the attendees. Dr. Mary Vieten, USN (Ret.), the programs clinical director, explained that the Veterans Administration (VA) “operates in an entirely medical model” while her program uses “a purely scientific model.”

Veterans, policemen and other first responders come from all over the country for the week-long free program that involves equine and physical therapy, job training, and other counseling.

The program is now funded by Melwood and contributions. They eschewed VA and other government funding because of their mindset of using drugs as treatment.

Vieten praised MedStar St. Mary’s Hospital’s emergency room for recognizing that a veteran who had overdosed on drugs needed to throw them away. He was taking 11 different drugs, following the prescribed regimen, and still overdosed.

“We are trying to make a statement. We are entirely outside of that,” Vieten said. She said when someone enters the Operation Tohidu program they have to sign a consent to give up the prescription medication.

She explained that before the drugs are administered by other programs it takes six hours for the government representatives to explain the treatment procedure before a consent form can be signed. Vieten said it was no wonder the veterans didn’t understand the ramifications of what they were doing.

A graduation ceremony concludes the week-long Operation Tohidu program at Melwood’s camp in western Charles County. The program just started a year ago and about six a year are held. They would like to do them more frequently if funds can be made available. It costs $3,750 a person to run the program.

Those who attend the program have formed a bond and continue to meet as alumni to support each other.

For more information about Operation Tohidu, go to Melwood’s website: https://www.melwood.org/

Greenwell Foundation Development Director Kaitlyn Fernald said it was the purpose of the Greenwell Foundation to “provide a place where everyone can be included in recreation and outdoor activities.”

Fernald spoke on Camp Host Homes, an Outdoor Health Initiative with the support of the community. Two guest cottages for veterans were built at the Greenwell State Park in Hollywood by the students from the Dr. James A. Forrest Career & Technology Center.

For more information about the Greenwell Foundation go to: http://greenwellfoundation.org/

The speakers from Greenwell and Melwood were preceded by an emotional talk by Jessie Blanton, who spoke of being injured physically and emotionally during his deployment in the Marine Corps search and rescue team. He said he was helped through a mentoring program at NAVAIR and in turn was asked to speak to other veterans about what he went through.

“”I thought it was about helping me out but it was about helping others. There are a lot of wounded warriors out there. They don’t know the way on how to be successful,” he said.

Before the speakers Green recognized outgoing board members Karin Garner, a former TPP president; and Captain Chris Flood, USN (Ret). Gene Townsend is the president of the TPP board of directors.

Contact Dick Myers at dick.myers@thebaynet.com