With over 28,000 Service League members in the HYLETE community, we are passionate about amplifying the voices of those who train to ensure our health and safety. In honor of Veteran's Day, we asked Sebastian Paz, Co-Founder of VETWOD, a non-profit that serves veterans, military, first responders, and healthcare workers about what VETWOD is doing to support the community. Here's what he had to say. 

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

My name is Sebastian. I am a husband, father, combat veteran, current ER night shift nurse, among other hats.

Can you tell us about VETWOD?

VETWOD is a nonprofit that serves veterans, military, first responders, and healthcare workers. We also support families and anyone that supports us and our cause. We promote physical activity and connections in the community to cope with daily life and with mental health issues such as PTSD, suicide, depression, challenges, and more.  

How Does VETWOD support the military, veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers?

We do a lot of things, among them are putting on events to provide opportunities to stay active and stay connected, we run fundraisers to support other VSO doing great work as well as to support our own programs. We provide gym equipment to those in need, as well as gym memberships.

What led you to start VETWOD? 

As a veteran, I know how hard it is to deal with the trauma we have seen and how the invisible scars can affect our daily lives. My faith, exercise, and a strong support system have been the way I have been able to cope. I also have always been all about serving my community and those in need. Mix those two together and add my good friend, Weezy, bringing up an idea to do something about it, and boom, VETWOD was born. Weezy and I started VETWOD in 2018 and have not looked back.  

What does mental health mean to you?

To me, mental health means having all the areas in our lives be in homeostasis or balance. Be even keel. Composed. Obviously, even without mental health issues, life can be challenging at times so it is important to understand that we will face challenges. The key is knowing that we can be resilient and cope with these challenges in a healthy and productive way. Oftentimes, we lack proper coping skills or don't have opportunities to channel our issues in productive ways. We also lack a good support system. That is where VETWOD comes in. We believe that healthy outlets and a strong support system can help us overcome and be better. We want to fight against suicide in our community and be of support to those that are struggling.

Why are mental health resources important for military, veterans, first responders, and healthcare workers?

The roles in which we serve are unlike any other roles. The situations and dangers that we are exposed to can be life-saving and life-altering. These roles require a lot of service and sacrifice. This applies both physically and mentally.  

How does fitness affect mental health? 

Fitness affects mental health in a positive way in every way. From a medical standpoint by increasing our blood flow to deliver important neurochemicals to our brains, to increasing our confidence by being able to stay engaged and physically move, to providing an avenue to “release” stress and decompress.

What is VETWOD's number one goal? 

Our number one goal is to remind anyone that is struggling, that they are not alone. That they matter, that suicide or quitting on themselves is not the solution. To remind them that we see them and understand them, and each and every single one of them is worth it #vetwodfortheone 

How has VETWOD been able to help and connect with the community? 

We have gotten various messages from members in our community that has expressed how thankful they are for how VETWOD has been for their mental health and making them feel valued and connected. From being motivated, to helping them transition post-service, to helping them to avoid suicide or other self-destructive behavior.

Where can those interested go for resources?

There are so many resources out there that it is hard to name them but a few that are doing great work include Mission 22, Hunter Seven Foundation, Operation RSF, Operation Sidekick, and more. Doing a simple interweb search will give people many options. 

The most important resource, though, is the Veteran Crisis Line: call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 or text to 838255.

How can the HYLETE community support VETWOD?

The HYLETE community can support VETWOD by engaging and connecting with us and our community by participating in our events, fundraisers, spreading the word, buying merchandise, donating, giving us feedback, and much more. Oftentimes, people think that they can't make a difference, but the truth is THEY CAN. And we can make an even bigger difference together! 

Keep up with VETWOD at https://www.vetwod.org/ and follow them @vetwod.

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