By Airman 1st Class Kaylee Dubois
“Yes, I suffer from PTSD,” he said.
The crowd looked at him somberly.
He smirked and then said, “I did not say I had an STD, I said I suffer from PTSD. I know some people get that all mixed up.”
The crowd laughed as retired U.S. Army Sgt. 1st. Class Vernard T. Hines used comedy to discuss resiliency at Fort Eustis’ Wylie Theater.
Having suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse himself, Hines, now known as the Laugh Therapist, discovered the power of laughter when speaking about serious issues in his own life. He now uses his form of therapy to help others going through hard times.
Although not his typical audience, the Drug Demand Reduction Office invited the local veteran to speak with service members about his deployment experiences and struggles.
“If I can reach just one Soldier, then it’s all been worth it,” said Hines. “Your mind can put you in a place you never thought you could go, and I just want to break that stigma of Soldiers seeking help.”
As a former Soldier, Hines finds it is easy to connect with the service members he meets through his performances. Many of those Soldiers he helped 10 years ago still reach out to him today.
“We have things in common and I have lived through what they’re experiencing,” said Hines. “I may not be the only voice, but I am a voice that can relate to what they’re going through.”
The presentation provided audience members with a new avenue to gain information. For U.S. Army Sgt. Jeane Esco, the fluid discussion between the presenter and the audience was a technique he recommends using for future trainings.
“It was a great and funny way to engage with Soldiers,” said Esco. “His message about getting help was an eye opener.”
The DDRO provides training multiple times a year, including before the holidays, to remind Soldiers and civilians of the risks associated with drinking and drug use.
According to Walter Gaines, DDRO prevention coordinator, training is offered is important to ensure safety and security of service members, families and the community.
“We want to keep them engaged and make sure the information really gets through to them,” said Gaines. “We want to focus on helping Soldiers make better choices when it comes to drinking alcohol.”
After four performances and speaking to more than 700 Soldiers and civilians with the DDRO initiative, Hines stated that he receives his therapy for the day by spreading awareness and laughing with the audience.