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Warriors Find Hawaiian Healing at Wounded Warrior Project Workshop

There were times when Army veteran Melvin Dizon didn’t look forward to anything. He felt like an “emotional wreck,” he said, and had trouble dealing with anger, depression, and suicidal ideations. But now, he has found hope and is looking forward to helping fellow veterans do the same.

Melvin found that inspiration at a recent Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) mental health workshop in Hawaii. Through adventure-based activities and mental health education, he learned new ways to manage his combat stress and find peace while connecting with other veterans. Nature was also an important component of the workshop, as the beautiful scenery contributed to the healing process.

“Hiking has saved me from PTSD episodes since I moved to Hawaii,” said Melvin, “and what the locals call Mana – magic – has certainly helped me cope with PTSD.” In native Hawaiian culture, mana is energy that flows through all things, and it’s possible to gain or lose mana through actions.

Opportunities to walk scenic trails, meditate, keep a journal, and sit and talk for hours with fellow veterans enhanced the experience for wounded veterans like Melvin at the workshop. The veterans also worked together to plant two native Kukui nut trees in an auspicious spot as part of a mindfulness exercise. Learning about the life-giving and healing aspects of this tree gave warriors a chance to reflect on their own healing and contribute to the local community. The veterans named the trees Kontura (which means “culture” in the Chamorro/Guamanian language) and Keiko (which means “respect” in Japanese).

“We enjoyed the moment and appreciated the chance to leave a legacy that becomes part of the landscape,” said Brandon Hopfe, a Marine Corps veteran.    

Brandon lives with PTSD and back injuries and has been walking the path of healing after separating from the military in 2012. Because of his previous involvement with WWP, Brandon served as a peer support leader for the warriors at the workshop. He’s happy to help build a community of veterans who support each other’s journeys.

“I still got a lot out of the workshop, and as a mentor, I want to share whatever tools I’ve picked up along the way,” Brandon said.

Air Force veteran John Hernandez traveled from Guam to join the group. He appreciated the safe and comfortable environment where veterans can come together to share strategies for coping with PTSD. Close to 8% of Guam’s population comprises U.S. armed forces veterans, yet there are few services available locally, John said. As a result, John was thankful for the opportunity WWP provided to participate in the Hawaii workshop.  

“Dealing with PTSD is a difficult challenge, and being united with other veterans with the same issues makes you feel like there’s hope and that you’re not alone,” John said.   

Among other activities, the warriors participated in a two-mile hike that overlooks the west side of Oahu. During a five-senses grounding exercise at the top of Nanakuli Mountain, warriors dug deep in a journaling activity and discussed sensations in their bodies.

Warriors, and their families, notice the links between physical and mental well-being. WWP provides services in both physical and mental health to help warriors thrive in their communities.

Veterans experienced the overall adventure as part of a Project Odyssey®, which is an outdoor, rehabilitative mental health workshop. This WWP program helps warriors learn to manage PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and other combat stress while connecting with nature and fellow veterans. Following the workshop, WWP offers a series of follow-up phone and video calls to empower warriors to establish goals and make positive progress towards their resiliency and psychological well-being.

Learn more about how Project Odyssey empowers warriors to achieve their next mission.


Jonathan Blauvelt – Public Relations,, 904.596.7109.

About Wounded Warrior Project

Since 2003, Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) has been meeting the growing needs of warriors, their families, and caregivers – helping them achieve their highest ambition. Learn more.


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