Healing America’s Heroes (HAH), a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit Organization, was founded by Vietnam veteran Eddie Crain in 2014 in response to the large number of suicides of military members returning from combat (22 per day according to a 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs). The mission of Healing America’s Heroes (HAH) has been to help heal combat veterans and active duty service members who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Military Sexual Trauma (MST), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) by offering a 5-day program of recreational equine (horse) and piscatorial (fly-fishing/fly-tying) therapies in the peaceful and calming environment of beautiful rural Chama, NM, at no cost to participants. The program has now moved to the Lincoln Pines facility at Fort Stanton, in Lincoln County, NM.
The program is typically staffed by experienced horsemen and fly-fishermen, a fly-tying expert, and life skills counselors/therapists who are veterans from various branches of the military, and the majority are combat veterans who can relate to and communicate well with the participating veterans and Armed Services members. This peer-to-peer relationship is important to build trust so that participants in the program can relax and enjoy the learning experience. When they bring this positive experience home, they can continue to enjoy these adaptive sports and recreational activities and nurture a positive environment within their families. By providing these adaptive sports and recreational therapies, HAH “helps veterans help themselves” through developing skills and techniques for their healing. HAH’s goal is to help reduce, and ultimately minimize, the suicide rate of our returning warriors. The program has now been expanded to include Law Enforcement and First Responder personnel who have experienced PTSD.
Eddie, Founder and Owner of HAH, participates at every event for Healing Americas Heroes.
Healing America’s Heroes (HAH) has successfully hosted 32 male veterans and 36 female veterans through our 5-day sessions in Chama since 2015 with overwhelming positive feedback from participants and testimonials from those who described how the skills they had learned in the HAH session helped them heal, re-establish relationships, control anger through self-calming, and restore confidence. Participants included veterans from Rio Arriba, Taos, Espanola, Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and several Native American tribes in this area. A number of participants also have returned as volunteers to help and support participants in the following years.
The innovative approach HAH has been using to enhance healing and make adaptive sports, recreational equine/piscatorial therapies more readily accessible to meet the needs of underserved veterans has been recognized in 2015 by the Espanola Small Business Development Center, and HAH was awarded the “Most Inspiring Small Business of the Year”. In August 2018, HAH received the “Small Business of the Month” award from the Chama Valley Chamber of Commerce; in January 2019, HAH received the honor of the Director’s Choice for the Los Alamos Community Asset Awards for its contribution of enhancing the wellbeing of the community; and in February 2021, HAH received the 2021 New Mexico “Behavioral Health Star” Award; additionally, one of the HAH horses, Cracker, received the 2021 “John Henry Support Animal” Award.
During the 2018 HAH sessions, several participants recommended that HAH starts to conduct 3- day sessions over the weekend (Friday to Sunday) to benefit those veterans with disabilities but work during the week. Additionally, HAH staff has received requests to conduct the same sessions for law enforcement personnel, fire fighters, first responders, and COVID-care medical workers who are suffering from similar disabilities. HAH is working to add these sessions in the near future. Now operating in the more central location of Lincoln County, NM, demand for HAH programs is increasing rapidly.