Not just another pretty face. Col. R.A. “Face” Fitzgerald, retired Marine pilot who leads Reboot in Rio Rancho. Pictured here: Face, Duck, Wally and Turk, the aircrew on mission in front of their EA-6B at Bagram AB Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy R.R. “Face” Fitzgerald)
The message from Reboot is ‘stay frosty’
For veterans, the number 22 stands out.
But not in a good way.
It’s the number of veterans who commit suicide every day in the United States, according to estimates.
Reboot Combat Recovery is a 12-week, faith-based, peer-led course for combat veterans in Rio Rancho. It’s held at the First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho on Tuesdays. The church donated the space.
Courses are led by combat veterans. It also can include families.
In Rio Rancho, it’s run by Col. R. A. “Face” Fitzgerald, a retired Marine pilot with combat experience.
There are 11 modules; the 12th is graduation.
“We do two of those (12-week) sessions a year,” Fitzgerald said, “and more veterans are coming.”
Modules include such topics as defining trauma, how to deal with anger and survivor’s guilt — things that mean a lot to anyone who has seen combat.
“These are all the issues related to trauma healing, depression and suicide — we talk about that,” Fitzgerald said.
Depression and suicide often take longer than the one week set for it, he said. It can take three weeks of discussion to deal with those topics.
“We have so many who are consumed with survivor’s guilt – ‘I couldn’t save him. I let him die. He died in my arms.’ “
Medics, he said, “are charged with providing care and comfort under combat conditions. They suffer that. But they were called to save some, provide care and comfort to some, and provide care and comfort to others up to their last breath. We talk about those things.”
At a recent meeting, there were representatives of all branches of the military. It was a free-wheeling meeting. Disagreement was OK.
These were men who had experienced the same horrors. Talking about it helped – especially with other combat veterans.
The message, Fitzgerald said, is that they can be at peace, “knowing the Lord is in charge.”
“You are called to walk this path, while others are called so we can walk alongside each other,” he said.
In the meetings, there’s camaraderie. These veterans often talk about things they have buried and have lugged around inside for years.
Fitzgerald said Reboot here has nine combat veterans. If in conversation it appears that one of them needs more help than Reboot provides, that person is referred to further services.
“We’re not therapists. We’re not counselors,” he said. “If someone needs therapy, we will help them get an appointment. We’re combat veterans. We’ve been there.”
These combat vets, Fitzgerald said, haven’t completed their mission just because they came home.
“They still can serve,” he said. “They still have a message. You’ve been given these experiences, so how do you use them? You’re still important. You still matter. You are still on mission. Stay in the fight. Stay Frosty (keep cool). And stay Oscar Mike (On the move).”
- Reboot: Combat Recovery
250 sites worldwide
6:30 to 8 p.m.
First Baptist Church of Rio Rancho
Contact: R A “Face” Fitzgerald
Colonel USMC (ret)