How One Veteran is Saving Lives Back Home

Zach Skiles wants to help other veterans cope with the trauma of war.

Zach SkilesCourtesy of Zach Skiles/The Christian Science Monitor

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

Zach Skiles lost four of his buddies while serving as a Marine in Iraq. For years, he struggled to deal with his trauma, often relying on alcohol and marijuana to cope. He finally admitted he had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after checking into a residential treatment program in California’s Napa Valley.

Skiles spent four months of 2010 at the Pathway Home, an intensive program that helps veterans come to grips with PTSD. The experience changed him—and led him to a life of helping others. Stiles now counsels vets at a VA clinic in Martinez, California, and says that his background allows him to connect with others dealing with self-blame, survivor’s guilt, and unresolved anger.

His determination to help grew even more last year, when a vet killed himself and three clinicians at Pathway. The program has been closed ever since.

“Some people see what happened as a reason to turn away from veterans,” Skiles told the Christian Science Monitor. “To me, it showed exactly why these programs are important.”

Recharge is a weekly newsletter full of stories that will energize your inner hellraiser. Sign up at the bottom of the story.

  • Another way. In one hospital, Walker Hughes was pinned to the floor, screaming. In another instance, he was handcuffed to a bed. So in December, when the normally gentle autistic man was approached by public safety officers in a hospital emergency room, his mother, Ellen, feared the worst. But Sergeant Keith Miller, on duty that night at Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois, tried something different. He and his team first sought to understand Walker, who was having an adverse reaction to medication. Then they sang James Brown songs and the theme to “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” They danced. For two and a half hours, Miller’s team helped calm Walker, who is 33 years old. Miller credits his approach to having an autistic son of his own, and he is trying to teach other hospital officers similar techniques. “Walker loved it,” said Ellen. “We’ve been to the doctor and the hospitals a million times and I’ve never seen anything like these guys.” Thanks to Recharge readers Karen Weintraub and Ilyse Levine-Kanji for the story suggestion. (Chicago Tribune)
  • Stepping in and stepping up. Todd Morrison could not stand by while the parents and guardians of his students were rounded up in immigration raids. A superintendent for the Honey Grove Independent School District in Texas, Morrison accompanied families to court appearances and made sure counselors were available to help. He also raised money to pay for gas and electric bills, groceries, and doctor appointments. “These families are great Honey Grove parents and families,” Morrison said. “They are pillars of our community.” (Hechinger Report)
  • “Whose future? Our future.” Defying threats of detention, thousands of British teens skipped school Friday to call for action on climate change. “We’re passionate, articulate and we’re ready to continue demonstrating the need for urgent and radical climate action,” said Anna Taylor, 17. The protests have taken place for weeks throughout Europe, with tens of thousands of teens participating. The movement was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a teenager who held a solo protest outside the Swedish parliament in August. (The Guardian)
  • Paying it forward. A church in Alexandria, Virginia, donated $100,000 to Howard University earlier this month, helping to pay off remaining fees and debts for 34 seniors. “I thought, ‘What better way to celebrate Black History Month than investing in the young, black heroes of HBCUs?’” said the Rev. Marc Lavarin, of Alfred Street Baptist Church. “They have lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders,” said senior Mya Thompson, who owed about $2,500. The church also donated $50,000 to help Bennett College, one of the last two women’s HBCUs, stay open. (Washington Post)

Have a Recharge story of your own or an idea to make this column better? Fill out the form below or send me a note at recharge@motherjones.com.

This post has been updated. 

More MotherJones reporting on Recharge

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate