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Photo courtesy of Bastion Community

How a Community in New Orleans is Helping Veterans Transition

March 26, 2019 by Colonel Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR
Dylan Tête, Executive Director and Founder, Bastion Community of Resilience will receive the George W. Bush Institute Military Service Citation at the Bush Center's Forum on Leadership.

Isolation and hopelessness can confront many of our warriors and their families as they strive to transition and find their next mission in life. While the majority transition successfully, those who face challenges also face a confusing array of resources, some more effective than others.

But in the Gentilly neighborhood of New Orleans, still recovering from Hurricane Katrina, stands a new community focused on easing the transition from military-to-civilian life. Bastion Community of Resilience exemplifies continued leadership and resilience, and addresses social challenges while enhancing cohesion among residents.

For our warriors and their families, Bastion is the first intentional community focused on their needs. Meaning wounded, ill, or injured veterans and their families can live alongside retired military and civilian volunteers. Its 58 residential units are truly unique where the design itself fosters a culture of care, healing, empowerment, and neighborly virtue. As an Army veteran and Bastion resident pointed out in their testimonial (name redacted for privacy).

"I love Bastion for three main reasons. Number one, I have a safety net here. When I encounter a setback, I don’t spiral all the way down like I used to, I can stabilize before things get out of control. Number two, I truly feel like I have friends here who understand me, including the staff. And number three, I feel I have a responsibility to other people, my neighbors, whose hearts are into the community as much as mine.”

The community interaction between vets and non-vets is an example of breaking down the civilian-military divide exactly where it occurs. Bastion residents also benefit from the experience of helping others, which in turn promotes wellbeing, trajectory in life, and resilience.

Clustered arrangements of homes each face a common courtyard. This design incubates meaningful and lifelong relationships. But it’s not only how one lives, but what they do while they are there. Neighbors helping neighbors is in the Bastion DNA.

On site staff and resources, like a centrally located wellness center, provides tailored care for those in need and residents can come together in common purpose and mutual support. Proximity to the recently opened New Orleans Veterans Medical Center and a newly formed partnership with Spero Rehab, a neuro rehabilitation organization, means that residents have effective access to their care needs.

Led by Dylan Tete, Bastion has successfully cultivated relationships with veteran organizations. These private-public relationships, are unique in the veteran space, and have helped Bastion with intake, placement, and referrals to care facilities. These partnerships should be a model for future veteran oriented alliances.

Notably, Bastion has also collected outcome measures on their residents. These insights allow greater visibility into a veteran’s transition, how the community can continue to be useful, and provide avenues for improvement. This data collection is unique in the veteran arena.  

While not every community can be Bastion, all neighbors can make a difference. Intentional design fosters enduring relationships, social support, and the continued leadership. While not easy to implement, the simple act of neighbors being neighbors can provide these tools of support to a transitioning veteran so that we all benefit. 


Author

Colonel Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR
Colonel Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR

Colonel Matthew F. Amidon, USMCR, is the Director of the Military Service Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. Colonel Amidon leads the day to day efforts of the Military Service Initiative and the team leading our policy and programmatic work on veteran transition.

Colonel Amidon has served in both active duty and reserve capacities since 1994. As an AV-8B Harrier pilot, he deployed in support of both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom, at the operational and staff level. In his current reserve capacity he serves as the Deputy Group Commander, Marine Aircraft Group 41, 4th Marine Aircraft Wing, Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth, TX.

Recently, Colonel Amidon was appointed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to the Creating Options for Veterans' Expedited Recovery (COVER) Commission. COVER provides advice to the VA, the President, and Congress, and examines the benefits of integrative treatments for the mental health conditions of veterans. The commission will also analyze the benefits of incorporating complementary and integrative health treatments in non-government affiliated facilities.

Colonel Amidon is originally from Stowe, Vermont and is a graduate of The University of Vermont. He earned his MBA at Southern Methodist University Cox School of Business in 2009. In 2012, he attended The Eisenhower School for National Security and Resource Strategy where he earned a Master of Science. Colonel Amidon is married with three children.

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