When Army veteran Karidad Ramis-Hartman, a licensed mental health counselor who worked for the Veterans Administration (VA), suffered a work injury that left her badly injured, with neck and shoulder pain and being unable to walk or use her right arm, coupled with a diagnosis of eventual blindness, she found herself in a bleak place.
“I lost my job because I couldn’t work and I became severely depressed and suicidal,” she admitted. “With all my counseling knowledge, I still got lost.”
She was receiving counseling from the VA until she moved to Ruskin and the drive to Tampa proved too difficult.
“I was despondent until my VA counselor told me about My Warrior’s Place, which is right down the street from my house,” she said. “I called and talked to Kelly, and she was immediately like a beacon of light for me.”
A Warrior’s Place, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded by Kelly Kowall—whose son, Corey, gave his life for this country—as a retreat center for veterans, military service members, law enforcement officers, firefighters and Gold, Silver and Blue Star families. In addition to Project Corregidor and Everyday Heroes USA, it offers an MVP retreat center (complete with an office, several cottages, three RV pads, a laundromat and other amenities); boating expeditions; C.O.D.E. (Courage, Obligation, Determination, Endurance) Fitness, offering a variety of holistic modalities and fitness activities to help heal the mind and body; and Heroes & Angels USA (providing music concerts and more).
Kowall started connecting her to different programs that helped change her mental state. “She just brought life to me,” Ramis-Hartman said.
Last year, Ramis-Hartman participated in Project Corregidor, which, while not a counseling service, is a three-night/three-day program offered quarterly at My Warrior’s Place for eight to 10 participants that provides holistic therapy, grief education and peer mentoring designed to support and aid in the healing process from life tragedies.
“My favorite part of the program, besides the camaraderie with other veterans, was breaking a piece of wood I had written all the things dragging me down on, setting it on fire and then walking on that fire,” said Ramis-Hartman. “I could visually see all the things coming out of my mind and it was just an incredible experience.”
Program director of Project Corregidor and licensed mental health counselor Irene Burkett is herself an Army veteran.
“In addition to the group setting of Project Corregidor, we also offer Heroes Holistic Center for individual sessions with a qualified holistic therapist,” she said. “The list of people wanting to attend Project Corregidor reflected the need for Heroes Holistic Center.”
For Ramis-Hartman, the lessons learned at My Warrior’s Place have been life-changing.
“When I’m having a tough day mentally, I remember the lessons I’ve learned, and it gives me the courage to endure,” she said.
A Warrior’s Place is located at 101 22nd St. NW. in Ruskin. Its hours for the Heroes Holistic Center are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. on most days.
For more information about A Warrior’s Place or any of its programs, visit www.mywarriorsplace.org or call 321-0880.