The Strongest Souls

Horses That Heal/Willow Equine is our November Outstanding Non-Profit. We have been introduced to the concept of equine-assisted therapythe Eagala Model, Veterans Day, and the fact that our veterans are more than a battle. Read on to learn about The Strongest Souls, the last article in our November Outstanding Non-profit series. —EH Stafford, Managing Editor



“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters seared with scars.”   —Khalil Gibran



Every individual has some type of scar or broken place


Veterans hold deeper and more complicated scars. Each veteran manifests the effects of their personal battle differently. Scars can happen on American soil; others on foreign. Some veterans return with the visible scars of battle. Others return with scars held deep within. A plethora of emotions identify veterans. This statement carries into how veterans deal with questions concerning their service. The gratitude they receive feels uncomfortable to most. Personality traits are uniquely different. This is reflected in how veterans choose to recount their experiences.




“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.”    —Ernest Hemingway


War breaks those who serve in one way or another

Veteran’s stories carry their broken places. Some may share. Some may choose a silent path to find their strength. Some carry unidentified traumas yet to be understood. The more jovial and extroverted may choose to make light or tease. A physical disability and a “war story” may be portrayed with humor. Obviously, there is no humor in war.



Humor is the mask of the hurt

Humor is the strength of a broken place. Unfortunately, the untold horrific stories are part of each veteran. Insightfully, some veterans feel these stories are too cruel to retell. A stoic resilience hunkers such stories into silence. Silence becomes the strength to mend broken places.



Veterans may not even totally know how to share

Traumas and related effects may be too raw to recount. Broken places needing to be strengthened. It is only safe to share with those who have the shared experience. A veteran you know might display these traits.



Questioning war experiences is natural

A means of understanding and curiosity. What they endured can never be truly understood. Nor can the lasting effects be easily recognized. What can be understood is the great sacrifice of our veterans. Honor them with empathy and understanding. Respect for how war years are retold is paramount. Respect for the veteran’s choice is our duty.



The scars veterans and their families endure are not easily described


Physical struggles are apparent. Psychological issues are clouded. Some veterans are able to talk about the dark places. Others privately carry the burden. Pride, attached stigmas and denial hold veterans back. Families may look on unable to help. Worse yet they become victims of the emotional turmoil. It is not just the veteran that suffers. In the past, mental health issues were obscured.





Great strides in psychotherapy are healing the broken places

Equine-assisted psychotherapy offers a new day for veterans. A day filled with a new hope for healing scars. The horses calm yet inspire a renewed resilience. Resilience transferred from combat now battles broken places. New ideas. New ways. New Possibilities. Untraditional, nonjudgmental and insightful therapy for veterans and their families. Renewed strength. Renewed courage…Aligning Veterans’ Strengths with Horses’ Freedom for Healing.





Katie Stankiewicz has always had a passion for horses and a deep desire to see people succeed. She founded Willow Equine, in 2012, which offers equine-assisted personal development in Mooresville, NC. Her mission is to enlighten clients to their innate abilities. Whether it’s taking the lead in their own health or focusing on work at their company, they re-energize themselves through self-discovery and horses. They are able to transform their struggles into authentic successes, and it becomes a part of their overall wellness plan and life-coping strategies. To make a donation, please visit




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