Jenny Stevens has poured her heart and soul into helping veterans.
Though Stevens doesn’t have a military background, she fell in love with this group while working as a speech pathologist for 25 years for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
“I didn’t have a husband, brother, father or a grandfather who was military,” Stevens said. “I drove an hour to work every day for 20 years because I love them so much. They gave me freedom from the beginning of our country, and they didn’t even know me. Every time I hear ‘The Star-Spangled Banner,’ I cry. Christ died for me and gave me my salvation in an eternal sense, but in an earthly sense, veterans died to give me freedom, and I can never repay that. So I try to repay by doing REBOOT.”
Stevens leads the Louisville location of REBOOT Combat Recovery, a free, 12-week faith-based course focused on healing from service-related trauma and providing practical help for families to deal with the moral and spiritual wounds from combat.
The course covers topics such as unresolved anger, guilt, unforgiveness, suicide, depression and isolation.
Jim Kutzner volunteers with REBOOT.
In 1986, he was commissioned as an Army nurse the same day he graduated from college. He spent 10 years on active duty in the Army and another decade in the Army Reserve.
“You come back from combat experiences changed,” said Kutzner, a Southeast Christian Church member who served overseas. “It’s not something you wanted or wished for. It’s different for a lot of veterans, but there are commonalities they find in PTSD. You don’t know why you’re so angry or why you feel periods of a purposelessness. You’re like, ‘Where does this come from?’ REBOOT is essentially saying your soul was wounded. You say, ‘Well, I didn’t get shot, lose my arm or leg and wake up in the hospital.’ I say, ‘These aren’t physical wounds.’ Every veteran has a story.”
The next REBOOT 12-week session will meet Sundays beginning Sept. 13 from 4 to 6 p.m. at NuLease Medical Solutions. Food and childcare will be provided. CDC guidelines for in-person gatherings will be followed.
The roots of REBOOT
REBOOT was founded in 2011 and now has 200-plus locations. More than 9,000 men and women have graduated from the course.
Stevens launched REBOOT Louisville last year, and it has 13 graduates. She said REBOOT not only heals the individual, but also re-establishes a sense of camaraderie.
“They bond so much because they’ve gone through something so tremendous and then when they come back home, they lose that,” Stevens said. “They try to see each other or keep in touch by phone or email, but they lose touch over time, and then the veterans feel isolated because they don’t have anybody that’s been through something they’ve been through. I asked them in the last class, ‘Is this anything close to the camaraderie that you had when you were in the service?’ They said, ‘It’s not the same, but it’s the closest thing we’ve felt since then.’”
It is especially helpful to spouses—who are encouraged to attend—because military marriages can be tough.
“The spouses go through as much as the deployed soldier does,” Kutzner said. “They don’t have the training or knowledge. They’re not there, and they see the news reports; they’re worrying and at the same time, they’re paying the bills, raising kids and all this stuff. Sometimes it’s harder because they’re in the dark.”
Kutzner attended REBOOT because his wife of 34 years, Darlene, noticed her husband needed help after returning from his deployment.
“Back in the day, we didn’t have the Internet or email,” Darlene Kutzner said. “It was a phone call once in a blue moon and writing letters, snail mail. Some of the stories that rolled out at REBOOT, I hadn’t ever heard. It’s stuff deep down--hard stuff, and nobody should have to go through it alone.”