Naperville massage therapist's book compiles vets' stories to promote healing
A book of 10 veterans' stories compiled by a Naperville massage therapist is now for sale, putting experiences of "service, courage and resilience" into the world to support veteran-focused charities.
The local service members who wrote chapters for Jordan Holwell's "Heart of a Veteran" project say they're pleased to share their stories to raise awareness of different methods of healing after traumatic wartime experiences.
"It's a very satisfying feeling to see this project come to fruition because it's very important to raise awareness of veteran suicide," said Jack Erwin of St. Charles, who has seen three veteran friends take their own lives since he returned from Afghanistan in 2009. "Also, for me personally, to increase awareness about resources that are out there."
Holwell says she's also passionate about preventing veteran suicide, which is why she'll donate proceeds from sales of the book to the U.S. Veterans Foundation, which fights veteran suicide by helping veterans to be mentally fit, and to the Florida-based Brothers in Arms Foundation, which supports Navy and Marines veterans with financial, medical, child care and other costs. She hopes to give each charity $10,000.
Six of the book's 10 veteran authors are from the suburbs including Erwin and Leona Di Amore, a Navy veteran and chiropractor in Naperville.
Di Amore tells of joining the Navy to feed her sense of adventure, and of the struggles one of her Navy friends experienced with post-traumatic stress and physical pain after a parachute accident. A month before her friend was scheduled to see her so she could conduct a chiropractic adjustment, he took his life.
"This tragedy has shaped my life today," Di Amore writes. "I could not save my friend. However, I can save others. I can take this experience and help others."
With personal stories like hers in its pages, Di Amore describes "Heart of a Veteran" as "like a 'Chicken Soup for the Soul,' militarywise."
"I'm happy it's coming out just to make people aware of what it's like to serve," Di Amore said. "There's honor in it. Even if there's bad stuff, there's honor in it."
While giving massages to military clients, Holwell says she hears about their darkest and brightest moments. That's what sparked the idea to compile a book.
"It tells the stories of veterans from all different eras who have struggled and gotten the help that they needed in different ways," Holwell said.
"Heart of a Veteran" is for sale as a $19.95 paperback at http://www.heartofaveteran.com/ or as a $9.95 e-book for Kindle devices. It took fundraisers that generated $15,000 and the support of the Naperville community to get the book into published form.
For the veterans who told their stories, it took more, Holwell says. It took heart.
"There were a lot of peaks and valleys with these guys. Some of them would get into a panic and not want to be in the project. They didn't want a lot of attention brought to them," Holwell said. "But I would tell them, 'Telling your story is all you need to do and the rest will work itself out.'"
• If you or a loved one are in crisis, visit the nearest emergency room or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-7255 or visit www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.