Operation Bear Hug
Operation Bear Hug was created after the loss of two Colorado State University (CSU) students in the fall of 2016. Both of the students were combat veterans who served with pride and came home alive with Honorable Discharges, only to end their lives in the peaceful Northern Colorado mountain community of Fort Collins. Retired US Army MSG Henry Seen felt compelled to take action. MSG Seen was angry; he had lost brothers-in-arms, he felt survivor’s guilt and he, himself, had his own demons to deal with but, more importantly, he felt the pain of not being able to help his two brothers.
MSG Seen served 27 years in the US Army Special Forces and is no stranger to the losses of combat. When he returned home, he experienced firsthand the struggle of reintegrating back into civilian life and remembers the challenges he faced. Henry, who is now a student at CSU and a member of the student veterans’ advisory body, decided to act. His first mission was to heighten awareness of veteran suicide to not just the CSU campus, but to the entire community. His second obstacle was that there are over 35 veteran organizations on campus; how could they all work together for a common cause and still keep their individual identities?
Veterans are competitive by nature, and what better way to engage that competitive spirit than to create an obstacle course for 5-person teams. There are 10 different stages to the course, each stage representing a different struggle and each participant/team coming up with a way to overcome it. For example a timed, SO-meter 250-pound tire relay where only two of the five team members can flip the tire end over end, yet no one can speak. As the two team members get tired, the other team members must watch for signs of exhaustion and relieve them. Another example is a corn hole bean bag toss where the participant is blindfolded and the other team member verbally coaches them to guide the toss into the hole, much like a soul who feels lost and then realizes they don’t have to face things alone. Operation Bear Hug’s mascot is the teddy bear.
The teddy bear is recognized as a symbol of comfort. In our youth, the teddy bear was the friend we could tell all of our secrets to. As we aged, the teddy bear was there to comfort us as we let out our anger and frustration (even hitting and throwing it), and was still there to give us a hug back when we needed it the most. The Teddy bear is surrounded by a trapezoid, representing somebody who is feeling caged, much like a person battling depression. The heart represents love; we need to share love and be open to receiving it. Finally, the word “Hope” is written on the teddy bear, because there is always hope.
The American Legion has been in support of Operation Bear Hug from its inception. Loveland Post 15 and CSU Ft. Collins Post 1879 offer mentorship and volunteerism. The first annual obstacle course was held on April 23, 2017. Sixteen teams comprised of students, professional firefighters, veteran groups and community teams participated. The event not only raised awareness, but $30,000 was raised in support of veteran suicide prevention. Next year’s event will be held in April on the CSU Ft. Collins campus, and a much larger crowd is anticipated in support of our veterans who are still struggling with the emotional and physical scars of war.
(Credit to DJVC Tony DuMosch for photo and story.)
Terri L. Clinton
Terri joined The American Legion in 2003 earning her eligibility for membership by service in the United States Army during the Panama era as a 98GKP, Electronic Warfare Specialist. She was assigned to the 125th MI BN at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii, separating at the rank of Specialist in 1990.
Terri’s project this year is ‘Operation Bear Hug” in sponsorship with CSU Legion Post 1879 in Ft Collins, CO. All funds raised will go to efforts to assist veterans with suicidal tendencies. Terri lost her brother-in-law in combat in Iraq. The pin is designed with him in mind. His name is inscribed on the edge with his KIA of 08/05. The butterfly represents a butterfly that landed on the canopy of the funeral service at the cemetery and remained there until burial. Terri described the butterfly as “Hugh and beautiful.”
All money raised will support suicide awareness for veterans.
You can buy her pin on our web store at http://coloradolegion.org/store/products/Commander%27s-Pin.html
Cost is $7.50 including postage.
Terri attended linguistics school at both the Presidio of San Francisco and Monterey, California, where she tested proficient in reading, speaking and writing Korean. She attended Military Intelligence school at Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas, and was issued a Top Secret Clearance.
Her involvement in the Legion intensified when her brother-in-law was KIA on August 5, 2005. She became the Adjutant of Post 178 in Lakewood, and was then elected District 5 Junior Vice Commander, Senior Vice Commander and Commander. She was elected Department Junior Vice Commander in 2015, Department Senior Vice Commander in 2016 and Commander at The American Legion Convention held on June 24, 2017.
Terri chaired the Department Female Veterans Action Committee for four years and revitalized the all-female post in Aurora, Colorado. While serving as Post 206’s Commander for three years, the post exceeded its membership goals and continues to flourish. She has also been a chair or member of several Department committees.
Terri attended National American Legion College in 2012 and has been a member of the National Media & Public Relations Commission for five years. She is a member of The American Legion Auxiliary Unit 1 in Denver, Colorado, and also attends regular meetings of the Omega Gaveliers. She was Post 178’s Legionnaire of the Year in 2012.
Terri resides in Westminster, Colorado. She has three children: Cory, Chelsea and Hannah Ohlson, who also reside in Colorado, and are all members of the Legion family. She is employed by Woodruff-Sawyer & Company as an employee benefits Senior Account Manager.
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