With the celebration of Veterans Day this past weekend, there has been a lot of attention paid to veterans in the last week or so. We take one day out of the year to specially honor their service and sacrifice. But many families are living with the war in their homes on a daily basis, either with partners overseas or partners who have returned injured or are unable to assimilate into their old lives. Veterans Day is a day of recognition, but it can also be about awareness. It should prompt us to ask, “What are we doing for these men and women the rest of the year?”

Most of us leave that question to the government, the doctors in the VA hospitals, and the other groups created to look out for veterans’ interests, the VFWs and American Legions.  But here in Gainesville, we have a large number of veterans in the community and a large VA hospital that can’t always manage all of the men and women who need attention. The question of what more we can do to serve this important population doesn’t go away so easily. And so, in 2007 with the help of a Veteran who was also a patient in the student clinic, Academy for Five Element Acupuncture started a free veterans clinic. This dedicated clinic offers free acupuncture treatment to veterans and their immediate family members who are seeking more treatment options than the VA can offer them.

Every Thursday evening from 6:30 pm to 7:15 pm, we invite veterans to come to our clinic for treatment. The service is free and no appointments are necessary. Service members simply need to show military ID. Treatment is provided in a safe and comfortable group setting. No undressing is necessary. Talking is optional. Patients sit down, let the student practitioner insert several very thin acupuncture needles in their ears, close their eyes, and relax. The needles will do the work. We have vets who come every week, and those who only come occasionally. It’s free and voluntary, but it has created a wonderfully supportive community for those who participate.

The student practitioners follow what is called the NADA protocol, which uses five acupuncture points in the patients’ ears to help energy flow throughout the entire body. The protocol was designed to help people with addiction problems, but it’s scope is much larger than that. The veterans who have come to our clinic report being able to sleep for the first time in years. They have more energy, less anxiety and stress, an improved ability to focus, and their chronic pain decreases or goes away altogether. Most importantly, treatment helps to alleviate the sense of hyper-vigilance PTSD sufferers deal with and decreases the number of flashbacks they experience. Anyone who has watched a veteran deal with flashbacks or nightmares, unable to control them or tell reality from the scenario their brain is replaying, knows how amazing these last two outcomes are.

Our veterans clinic has grown since its inception in 2007. Articles in the Gainesville Sun have helped raise awareness of the service, and the VA hospital has begun recommending it to their patients. This partnership is essential in ensuring that those who need treatment are made aware of it. The VA has, by far, the largest reach. However, I began this blog post asking the question, “What more can we do?” This is where the rest of Gainesville can answer that question: tell the veterans in your life about the clinic. Tell them there is safe, effective, and non-invasive treatment available to them at no cost. Help us spread the word. Or, give someone a ride. Let the smallest ripples spread out to the larger pools of the population.

I’m posting this on Thursday, November 15th. Our student practitioners and their supervisors will be on  hand in the veterans clinic tonight starting at 6:30 pm. Come see what it’s all about. And bring a friend.