When Yolanda Dortch-Amiker joined the U.S. Army in 1995, she had a number of reasons.
Raised in Jersey City, she joined the military to get away from many of the problems of the inner city. As it turned out, she served in eight different cities in a number of countries, and even went to war.
After training in Fort Stewart in Georgia, Dortch-Amiker went on to serve in Germany, Hawaii, Korea, and Iraq. She served as a logistics specialist until her discharge in February 2013.
She wound up working in a warrior transition facility that helps vets returning from combat zones. As a result, she learned how profoundly post traumatic stress affected veterans, and herself.
Now Dortch-Amiker has returned home after a harrowing 20 years in the military. She hopes to use her experience with post traumatic stress and other afflictions of war veterans to help build a not for profit organization that will help other veterans.
As founder of the H.I.P. Foundation, Dortch-Amiker said her experiences with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) have prepared her to help other veterans.
Her own recovery came first
While serving in Hawaii, she was sexually assaulted, then suffered a stroke in apparent reaction to the trauma.
“I couldn’t walk or talk or wash myself,” she said. “I also found that I had diabetes.” The sexual assault, the debilitating stroke, diabetes, and PTSD, left her with overwhelming thoughts of suicide.
It took her a year to recover.
“I didn’t have what I needed to feel whole again.” – Yolanda Dortch-Amiker
“The year 2012 was the critical point,” she said. “I was depressed. I even wound up in a mental institution for 30 days for observation.”
After being in hospitalized rehab, she moved to North Carolina to try to more fully recover from the stroke.
Learning to help others
There she discovered that some of her experiences were not unique and that there wasn’t an adequate support network for veterans with similar kinds of troubles.
Out of this insight came the idea for HIP Foundation.
She found that even in Hudson County where she grew up, support services were not always what they should be. And so in 2014, she developed a program called Healing is Power (HIP) to service and support individuals who require unique assistance and comfort for wounds which penetrated much deeper than was apparent.
This is a 501c3 community and faith-based organization that tries to develop a program that will bring professional aid to those veterans in need.
HIP encourages “the telling of your truth.”
Dortch-Amiker said keeping quiet about problems often hinders a person’s ability to hear.
“I struggled coming home,” she said.
After discharge, she had tried to pick up her life in North Carolina, but didn’t have a good support network.
“I didn’t have what I needed to feel whole again,” she said. “There was nothing for me. So I wanted to create an organization that would provide for others all the things I thought I needed a coming out.”
She kicked off HIP in Jersey City, but hopes it will become a program any veteran can access. She visited local veterans’ posts and hopes to set up a location that will provide services to deal with the host of problems veterans face.
“But it’s not just veterans that we hope to help,” she said. “People suffering from cancer or diabetes or depression also need to find a way to heal,” she said.
For more information, go to www.hipfoundation.org.
Al Sullivan may be reached at email@example.com.