BY ADAM KENT-ISAAC
In July 2003, when most high school graduates were enjoying their summer vacation, Chris Snell was at Parris Island, South Carolina, in U.S. Marine Corps boot camp. Over the following years, he served two seven-month tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, attaining the rank of sergeant.
His enlistment now finished, Snell has founded a support group—Restless Minds, Inc.—and made it his mission to help other veterans like him cope with the emotional stress of combat.
“The VA [U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs] is so spread out right now with so many other issues that combat-related trauma is not handled appropriately,” says Snell, 26, a Bloomington native. “They need all the help they can get. I think everyone who’s a combat veteran should start another nonprofit organization like this one.”
In February 2010, Snell began documenting his own reflections on combat and collecting personal stories from the Marines he served with, intending to eventually publish the memoirs in a book. The experience inspired him to actively reach out to other veterans and help heal their emotional wounds.
One goal, he says, is to fight the perception among some vets of a stigma attached to seeking help. Snell urges those keeping their troubles hidden to come forward and share their feelings. “It’s not going to ruin your career…there are a lot of guys out there who are literally killing themselves because they can’t get over the trauma that they’ve suffered.”
He says that many combat vets find it difficult opening up to those who haven’t seen combat themselves. To that end, Restless Minds is committed to pairing clients with peer mentors who have survived the same rigors of war and can directly relate to their experiences.
“I also want to help people recover without the use of alcohol or drugs,” says Snell, who encourages physical fitness and public service as alternatives. “Everyone can volunteer, whether it’s picking up trash around a local school or helping out at a volunteer fire department. We want to get them active in the community.”
Visit restless-minds.com for more information.