The Veteran's Voice

The perspectives and experiences of veterans at Waypoint Ranch.

Updated: Mar 16, 2019

In 1997, my family visited me at Charleston Air Force Base and came to watch softball practice on a Saturday morning. My youngest brother Matt asked why I wore #13 on my jersey, wasn’t that bad luck? In my twenty-something cocky way, I said something like “I defy bad luck, bring it on”. We never talked about it again but Matt adopted the number 13. It was his number on the high school basketball team and the number has taken on a special, revered place in our family story.

Several years later, Matt ended his life with a jump from the old Cooper River Bridge in Charleston. That event took an enormous toll on a very strong family, and I’ll do what I can to spare others from the same.

This is a very short version of the story. Over 15 years later, the details still pierce me like a dagger through the chest when I allow myself to go there.

- Ray Cirasa, Lt Col, USAF (Ret)

My Husband, Rusty Canant, was an Army Veteran. He was a truly wonderful man with a huge heart. He’d do anything in his power for a person in need whether it was family, friend or total stranger. He had an incredible sense of humor that I miss so much and I will never forget his infectious laugh. About 10 years ago, Rusty served in Iraq with the Army, 10th Mountain Division. Not too long after they came home, he joined the National Guard and was deployed to Afghanistan. Rusty struggled with PTSD and survivor’s guilt. He never got any help for it.

We started dating in February of 2016. I immediately knew he was the man I was going to marry (love at first sight). Fast forward almost two years, we married on November 5, 2017 and it was the best day of our lives. I couldn’t wait to spend the rest of our lives together. On December 3, 2017…28 days after we were wed…Rusty ended his life. He was pronounced on December 5, 2017, which would have been our one month anniversary. It was my worst nightmare.

I hate that I had to go through this horrible tragedy, but I hate it the most that other people have to live through it, especially those with children. Fortunately for me, I’m getting help from the caring people at the Peace at Home Project at Waypoint Ranch in Carrollton, Georgia. I receive counseling every other week to cope with my own PTSD and grief. I wish more Veterans would seek help instead of keeping it bottled up for months and years, and in Rusty’s case, over a decade. I’ve received Accelerated Resolution Therapy to help me process the events of that night and help me gain control of all the emotions that go along with that memory. After one session, I was able to look at this horrific event in a completely different light. It’s strange to be able to see the good in a terrible situation, but A.R.T. has helped me immensely. I don’t know where I’d be without it. I have my lows and they’re scary enough, even after A.R.T. I’d hate to see what my life would be like now without it. I probably wouldn’t be here right now if not for my counseling at Waypoint Ranch. They’re doing a great thing there and I wish more men and women Veterans knew about all the help that is available to them at places such as the Ranch. These people have gone above and beyond for our family, from providing me with counseling to staying with us at the hospital in Atlanta for two days. I’m convinced there is nothing they wouldn’t do for Veterans and their families.

I wish Rusty had gotten the help he so desperately needed instead of becoming 1 out of 22 that night. I wish the stigma that goes with PTSD would go away so that getting help for it or admitting that you have it wasn’t looked on as a weakness. PTSD is not a weakness, it’s a scar that shows you what you were strong enough to survive. The way you look at the weight you carry from it can be changed by this amazing therapy. I truly believe that if more American Heroes were introduced to this therapy, the number of Veteran Suicides would drop rapidly. And that’s something I can get behind if it means that someone doesn’t have to say goodbye to a father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, brother, sister or a friend too soon. It breaks my heart that these fine and exceptional men and women who risk their lives and survive overseas come home and decide to end their own lives. I hope one day it’s no longer a leading cause of death for our nation’s heroes.

- Shelby G. Canant

Well, last night we were lined up to groom the horses, which just started the intimacy between the animals and myself, which I've been taught before, except not at that level of detail. It was very intimate. The horse allowed me to focus on something outside of my own mind, which is a lot better than what I'm normally doing. I'm always in my own head. It was a great experience to have something external, just to have an outlet basically.

When we got through grooming the horses, Erica took Freckles and Jay took Blue and they went to the outside arena. They were working the horses with a carrot stick and it sparked my interest because my former boss used to do that for show horses... but Erica and Jay were using intentions instead of physically directing the horses. I went to the gate and asked Erica when I could do that. She said to go get Ace and I did. I waited for Autumn to remove Molly and went into the inside arena with Ace. Erica told me that Ace is very sensitive, that no touch, no carrot stick or anything would be necessary, just the direction of your gaze. Erica showed me first hand how she does it and it blew my mind. All you simply do is direct your eyes at their back end and the horse will move where you want it to go. There would be no difficulty getting the horse to move, stop, or anything. She passed the reins to me. I didn't think I could do it, but Ace moved and I felt a connection with him.

I am an addict as well as being on antidepressants, but nothing compared to the experience and the enjoyment that followed. It was not only a mind release, but a spiritual healing. I want to keep working with Ace and possibly other horses.

When it was over, I had two choices, keep working or let him go. I took him to the pasture, let go of the reins, and he stayed there for a few minutes and then moseyed away.

I cried on the way home.

"Veterans are not a charity, they are an investment" 

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