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VFW Magazine October 2017 : Page 21

PHOTO BY TOM PUMPHRET Bastion Community of Resilience board member James Reiss; Executive Director Dylan Tete; social worker Jeremy Brewer; and first resident Rick Hall, stand in the community’s courtyard in New Orleans. Bastion’s homes are designed to promote engagement with neighbors to strengthen resilience among veterans in the community. in 2015 after moving from New York City to New Orleans. Hall, along with his dog, Spike, moved into a Bastion unit in January of this year. Bastion’s best qual-ities, according to Hall, are its “support system” and “culture.” “It’s not only a place where you are getting help, it’s also a place where you are getting support from other veterans and residents,” Hall said. Tete said all residents of Bastion are mandated to commit six hours per week of community service, adding that it is also one of the reasons for having non-veteran households. To help normalize the community for the veterans, Tete said, Bastion “is a family environment” and that of all its residents — about 80 people — half are children. “We built as many three-bedroom units as one-bedroom units because we wanted families with children in the community,” Tete said. “We wanted to normalize the community for the veter-ans’ transition into civilian society.” Malik Scott, a Bastion resident and Navy veteran, walks his dog in the New Orleans veterans village. The Bastion Community of Resilience is designed to support veterans’ day-to-day lives and foster volunteerism in the community. A $17 MILLION COMMUNITY Bastion’s first phase was completed in January, and Tete said the veteran resi-dents currently at Bastion “have a history of mild or moderate TBIs.” “Their challenges are more related to post traumatic stress, depression and sui-cide ideation,” Tete said. “Part of that is because [New Orleans] has not had an inpatient [VA] hospital or polytrauma unit for the last 12 years.” In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastat-ed New Orleans and destroyed the city’s VA hospital. A new hospital opened in November 2016 but is not expected to “fully open” until the end of this year, according to The New Orleans Advocate . “We want to be a part of the post-Katrina effort here in New Orleans,” Brewer said. “We want to be a part of the city’s post-traumatic growth.” Reiss said the second phase of the project is expected to at least double the residential units and expand its care and services to veterans with “severe TBIs.” “As we grow into being able to treat those neuro and physiological wounds, then we can really get to have a higher level of [TBI] patient here at Bastion,” Reiss said. The total cost for the completed com-munity is expected to be about $17 mil-lion, Reiss said. VFW-CONNECTED EFFORT Brewer said there were several fundrais-ing events held before the community’s inception to raise money for Bastion. “There was a lot of support from the VFW, especially in the beginning,” Brewer said. Reiss said Post 8973 is the “linchpin” for all of the elements that made the cre-ation of Bastion possible. “[Post 8973] can tie in all the things in the city that are veteran related, and VFW acts as a central hub for all the spokes to attach to,” Reiss said. “Bastion is a perfect example of something that VFW accomplishes by having a large and involved membership. “While Bastion and VFW aren’t offi-cially linked, we wouldn’t have Bastion if it weren’t for VFW and having that com-munity VFW provides,” Reiss added. According to Reiss, Post 8973 is “pre-dominantly” comprised of post-9/11 vet-erans. In total, the Post has 317 members, of which Reiss says some 80 percent are Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. “The local VFW has been a life ring for a lot of returning veterans,” Tete said. “The post-Katrina landscape was abys-mal. All of New Orleans’ veteran infra-structure was completely wiped away, and VFW was there for veterans who needed support.” J EMAIL dspiva@vfw.org OCTOBER 2017   • WWW.VFW.ORG • 21

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