Alese Maples Project Coordinator The Fort Villanow
As construction is nearing completion of Fort Villanow, project organizers consisting of U.S. Military veterans are preparing to open the doors to a unique facility that hopes to help decrease the incidence of suicide among combat veterans while helping to strengthen family bonds – a need clearly defined by the fact that male veterans under age 30 saw a 44 percent increase in the rates of suicide, according to suicide data from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The numbers continue to become more staggering following the massive draw down of forces following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Although programs exist to help veterans through the Veterans Administration, many do not seek needed help due to the stigma attached to having a diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Alese Maples, coordinator for the project, says the idea behind Fort Villanow is that newly separated members of the military or older veterans find comfort in the company of other veterans. "Here [in Fort Villanow], they don't have to say, 'I have this problem.' They can just be around other people who have had similar experiences." Maples said.
The Fort promises to offer a place without judgment that is accessible to Veterans regardless of income. Veterans will have the opportunity to learn new skills and participate in a number of activities including fishing, skeet shooting, rock climbing, team sports, horseback riding and scuba diving in addition to blacksmith and woodworking classes. Plans by current participating veterans are interested in offering their personal expertise in free classes for others in the community like self defense; how to escape from an attacker, exercise, vegetable gardening and campfire cooking right now.
Fort Villanow features a Western town, including a Saloon that serves as a meeting hall. Horses at the Fort's Livery Stable will have a therapeutic benefit and group settings will offer veterans an opportunity for social interaction with fellow veterans that they might not otherwise have. Family activities will provide veterans with a time and place to heal the damage that often follows them home from war. There will be a wide range of activities for children that promote physical fitness and education. Fort Villanow also provides a time and place for the spouses of veterans to meet in a group for therapeutic discussions. Project organizers hope to have something for everyone to participate in. All at no cost to veterans.
Opening day is Saturday, May 16, 2015. Fort Villanow will be open every Saturday for the general public. Veterans are welcomed at the Fort daily, 7 days a week.
Volunteers are still needed to complete construction and cleanup. Donations are needed to keep the Fort operational. Volunteer veterans are building and operating the facilities and 100% of donations go directly to building costs.
The name and location described:
The community of Villanow is located on Scenic Hwy 136, a popular exit 320 from I-75, only 75 miles from Atlanta, Georgia and 35 miles south of Chattanooga. This northwest Georgia highway is popular for sightseeing Motorcycle riders, bicyclers, horse back riding, trout fishing, camping. The Fort is at the corner of Hwy 136 and The Pocket Road, leading the way to the Johns Mountain recreational areas, girl scout and boy scout camps. A very busy highway on weekends.
Civil War history and reenactments are held annually in the surrounding towns like Resaca, Tunnel Hill and we on the route towards La Fayette and on to Chickamauga Battlefield and Lookout Mountain. The general store at the Villanow crossroads is recognized on the map of Historical Places in Georgia with markers up and down Hwy 136. The name Fort Villanow is not to be confused with any type of actual battle held at the location, just a name the Veterans chose. It identifies the type of military facilities in our earlier history of the United States up to modern day. This is the history they want to pass along to the children that they may or may not be aware of today.
Love of country is the goal here.