I wasn’t sure what to expect when we applied for a couple’s Project Odyssey through Wounded Warrior Project. As we have attended other similar events, we did expect some type of group therapy discussions.
We were housed at the beautiful TPA Saltgrass Resort in Ponte Vedra Beach (I highly recommend the Fried Green Tomato Pimento Cheese Sandwich if you are ever in town). The folks at this Marriott were beyond kind and went out of their way over the couple of days to make sure we had what we needed. This location caters to corporate meetings and they have a Starbucks located inside. How genius is that?
The staff from WWP were great. Their intent was to facilitate all kinds of discussions through thoughtful discussion, art projects and bonding exercises. As with most groups of military families, this can devolve into herding cats. A lot has been going on in their corporate offices and they handled it well.
I am not a big fan of team building exercises (in corporate environments I have seen the quickly go awry). A similar thing happened on this venture but with a lot more emotion. On our first day we were kind of thrown into tandem kayaks with no instruction and told, go to this point down river.
What a mess.
Our guide was knowledgeable, the area was beautiful and my Veteran had the most epic melt down in the history of melt downs out in the middle of the water. In retrospect, it was HILARIOUS, but at the time it didn’t feel like it. We had to work through some things for sure but I could have done without the trial by fire.
The next day was a team exercise where half of us were blindfolded and had to come from a room off the larger area into a place where the other half was to make us sit in chairs but no one could talk. In preparation, my team half developed more than one plan cheerfully and were ready to go. My Veterans team half apparently fought the entire time.
What happened next was even worse.
Being unable to see and have people grabbing on you brings up all kinds of issues. Whether you are a Veteran or not, if you have trust issues or space issues or all of the above from a trauma, this reignited all of that. To say that there was some emotion and crying is an understatement.
The next day’s beach activities were much more beneficial. Everyone worked together and felt supported. It was nice to see.
We have talked often since about whether we would have participated had we known any of this in advance and I am not sure. They don’t give a schedule so you are forced to roll with it but that resulted in being ill prepared wardrobe wise and very stressed when it came to times for medications.
It could have been handled better.
The results, however, are hard to argue with. There were conversations that needed to be had that finally started. There were plans to be made that finally were. There was thoughtful consideration of personal goals which had been lacking. I am glad for the experience of it but not sure I would recommend it for everyone. If you aren’t in the right head space for that or not in the place in your relationship where you are ready to work on things, you would be miserable.