BALLSTON SPA – While the number fluctuates every year, Amy Hughes says Saratoga County is now home to more than 17,000 military veterans. An unknown number of them still grapple with the painful memories and emotions they acquired in war.
That is precisely why Hughes, program coordinator for the Veterans Peer Connection, organizes a “coffee night” every Tuesday between 5 and 7 p.m. at Saratoga Coffee Traders: to give those who have faced combat a place to bond and share experiences, with no agendas or pressure bearing down on them.
According to Hughes, the Veterans Peer Connection (VPC) is funded through the New York State Office of Mental Health and currently serves 16 counties. Its existence was necessitated in recent years, she said, by many veteran suicides across the country.
This week, Hughes was relieved to explain how the VPC headquarters are being moved from a cramped Saratoga County office building to a more spacious unit at 2144 Doubleday Avenue in Ballston Spa.
The upgraded VPC space will be ready just in time for a new 20-hour course designed to benefit troubled veterans, called De-Cruit, which has been scheduled to start on Thursday, Sept. 14. It will run from 6 to 9 p.m. every Thursday through Oct. 26, and food will be served at 5:30 each night.
Hughes indicated that the course is free for veterans of all ages, military branches, eras and experience.
The De-Cruit course features actor Stephan Wolfert, a military veteran himself, who is widely known for his one-man stage show “Cry Havoc!” He is presently in Hawaii for performances that were scheduled there.
“Stephan is fabulous,” Hughes said, noting how “Cry Havoc!” lasts for about an hour and a half as it delves into the realities of Wolfert’s military service. “It really is an unbelievable show,” she said. “He does not stop from beginning to end.”
Hughes said Wolfert will perform “Cry Havoc!” during the first night of the De-Cruit program, the latter of which was prepared in association with academic researchers.
Thereafter, Hughes added in a statement, Wolfert tailors individual scenes to veterans who sign up as he “interweaves classical stage acting with modern psychology.”
Many veterans have reported “significant benefits” and “dramatic improvements to overall health after completing the course,” she explained.