EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Mike Dowens doesn't just talk the talk about addressing the needs of veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. He also walks the walk. The United States Navy Veteran walked from Washington DC to East Brunswick this week to raise money for Unbroken Warriors, a fund he started with his wife Christine, that helps vets return more completely from war. He is not alone - his dog Kelsey is right there beside him.
"The goal of Unbroken Warriors is to relieve the stigma of PTSD, " said Christine Dowens in an interview with TAPinto East Brunswick following her husband's arrival at VFW Post #133. "Starting the conversation is uncomfortable. Today, vets 'stagger in' at random intervals from combat. It is not like World War II or even Vietnam when many soldiers returned all at once. We forget about them and are complacent. There is a war on and people are still coming home."
"Anything can set you off, " said Mike Dowens, "Veterans often become victims of suicide, substance abuse, and stress. We are trying to get them into a residential-level intervention where they will receive 90 days of therapy." Dowens cited the recent efforts of The Refuge, a trauma facility in Florida which offers therapy, medication, and alternative forms of treatment for returning vets.
Dowens's arrival was celebrated celebrated not only because of his Herculean efforts to alleviate the pain of PTSD, but also because his wife's grandfather was one of the founding members of Post #133 here in East Brunswick. John Keleman was a paratrooper in World War II. A lifelong resident of East Brunswick, Keleman owned a farm that has long been a local favorite in town, especially during the summer.
Dowens, who was followed along the route by his wife and child, his aunts and cousins, his father and other members of his extended family, expanded his support network when he was greeted at the entrance to the Post by dozens of well-wishers - veterans, families, scouts, firefighters, police officers, and friends when he arrived at around 5:40 on Saturday, June 3.
Referring to the event, Mayor Brad Cohen said, "It is exciting to be able to do this. It's very patriotic. Mike has made a huge commitment to the country that we should all respect."
Donations are still being accepted on an ongoing basis by Unbroken Warriors.