Photo caption: Heroes Family Camp, Farragut State Park, Idaho, June 23, 2022. Heroes Family Camp (formerly called Ben’s Campout) is a time for veteran moms and dads to take an intentional weekend to learn about childhood development and bond as a family.
Veteran Andrew Holstine and his wife Danielle founded Heroes Homestead in 2018. They purchased a piece of land in Clayton, Wash. with the dream and vision of providing military families a place for healing and support. Their inspiration came from years of struggling themselves and then walking through the healing process in their own marriage and family.
Andrew Holstine is a veteran who struggled with PTSD through much of his adult life following a military Osprey crash that killed 19 military brothers. In 2013, he had a major breakdown. It took about a year for Andrew and his wife Danielle to get a handle on it. During that time their eyes were opened to how many other veterans were struggling with the same issues.
“Those serving in the military are disconnected from their environment in America. We don’t have adequate systems in place to help reacclimate them to home life. Our veterans return home changed people, and their home life has progressed since they left. This leaves veterans and their families trying to communicate from two different worlds; add on the traumas they experienced – the need to find a job, financial struggles and having no family support – and you realize that more help is needed for our heroes who protect and serve this country,” said Danielle.
Danielle Holstine has a background in anthropology and cultural adjustments. Her experience recruiting Americans for companies overseas, and then acclimating them in their new culture, made her realize that this is greatly needed for our military families. “The military is a culture all in itself,” she said.
Danielle took an anthropology approach with her husband and thought about ways she could connect with him in “his culture” — help him understand her thinking — and then find a bridge so that they could communicate and heal. The Holstines wanted to use that personal experience and applied anthropological approach through interpersonal adjustment to help other military families.
Prior to founding Heroes Homestead, the Holstines sold everything they had in California and traveled across America. They needed space to live their lives and form new dreams, Danielle said. When they moved to their new farmland in Clayton, they planned to have 1-2 acres for their private family life and use the rest to support veterans and their families. They wanted to “live and share,” Danielle said.
Since then, they have made progress each year toward their vision for helping veterans. They have built a day retreat center for veterans and their families and have onsite counseling thanks to extension services from The Veteran Center in Spokane Valley, to serve rural veterans in South Stevens County.
Next, they want to build a conference center and overnight bed-and-breakfast type facilities for veterans and their families who need transitional life-style planning and coaching. Their long-term dream is to extend that idea across the nation, providing nearby housing and support for veterans nationwide. “Our veterans need community wherever they are,” said Danielle.
Heroes Homestead Support
Veterans and their families can reserve days and times to create private space at Heroes Homestead (Heroes). They operate on a reservation basis. Reservations can be made online at heroeshomestead.com. There is a community event each quarter and anybody can come out and participate.
Many veterans have no computer or internet service, but are interested in “Telehealth,” the remote healthcare service. Heroes can provide them with a free computer (as they are made available) thanks to a program through Comcast.
Veterans who have applied for counseling or suicidal interventions and prevention may have a 1 year waiting period. The Heroes team is helping veterans get support within 24 hours by connecting them with financial guidance, suicidal ideation intervention, career guidance and a community of veteran services available in Eastern Washington.
During October, Heroes three-day Women’s Retreat was held at Clearwater Lodge in Newport, where training was provided for women with PTSD on how to respond when triggered by family and friends.
Nov. 26 – Heroesgiving – On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, families of Veterans, Active Duty and First Responders are invited to enjoy a home cooked meal and community at North Bible Church, 13521 N Mill Road, Spokane. Preregistration is encouraged at heroeshomestead.org. This is a free event. Just let them know you’re coming (and how many).Veterans do not need to be present.
Dec. 18 – Carol Sing – This event is open to the public. Gates open at 3pm and it’s free. Bring your family, loved ones and blankets and enjoy some hot cocoa.
Every month, they host a big outreach event. In The spring, they host a Heroes Silkies Walk for families of veterans to support their veterans’ journey home. There is a Garden Party at Heroes Homestead where their daughter talks about how to thrive in your relationship with your parents, even when growing up with a disabled parent. In the summer, there are family camping outings at different camping locations in Washington and Idaho, where they create a mission statement as a family and learn growth patterns for kids and youth in order to parent more effectively. They also host men’s fishing retreats during the summer months, so keep a look out for these annual opportunities.
When in crisis
Usually, it’s a family member who calls in a crisis, said Danielle. They sense something is off. The Heroes team has a crisis plan to walk the family through it together. The goal is to identify immediate needs to stabilize the family and home. Then once all individuals are stabilized, a long-term care plan can be developed. Response time is in the moment – within a 24-hour window. A representative from Heroes stays involved for at least 72 hours, and partners with community resources to make sure the family and veteran receive the care and response they deserve. Their goal is to walk with that family for a year and have not had a veteran take their life since inception. They have seen many marriages restored with great success, said Danielle.
Regular onsite support
Buddy System – Many times veterans isolate and don’t get the healthcare or help they need due to trauma related mental health issues. At Heroes, there are veteran volunteers ready to walk alongside other veterans — whether to the VA, or a doctor’s appointment — to help advocate for them and relieve the stressors of navigating the medical health system.
Veteran Service Officers – VSOs are usually onsite and available to help connect veterans with the
services they need, such as processing a claim, understanding their rights or finding a doctor.
Friends of Heroes – These volunteers help pick up the pieces when veterans are in between employment and need help with meals and provide care packages.
Church Partnerships – Three churches partner with Heroes Homestead each year: Life Center Foursquare, Northview Bible, and The Warehouse OC (CA) – who fly out once a year, camp onsite and complete building projects.
Heroes Market – Is an on-site honest farm stand that provides fresh produce to the community and access to veteran made goods. Proceeds support the veterans and Friends of Heroes prevention teams.
Heroes Journal – This is a bi-annual publication that gives guidance to families of veterans to better understand the lifestyle needs and community support they can offer with articles and resources written by those who have walked in their shoes.
Wes Anderson, VSO, Chaplain for VSW for the state.
Mike Shindler, Founded Operation Military Families; BUCA documentary based on military officer training on how to overcome a crisis.
Rod Price, Veteran, President of Spokane Rotary, and business consultant.
Nino Gray, Community Engagement Manager, Seattle Seahawks. Started Task Force 12 – Heroes Homestead and Operation Military Families are two of the 12.
Dave Lucas, served on VA Board of Directors Advisory Council; runs “Stand Down” – a network event that fights against homelessness – each city (or region) has their own, and he leads the one for Spokane.
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Donate at heroeshomestead.org