Bernie Stafford and his wife Chris are past members of our Rotary Club. Bernie has been active in the Warfighter Advance program, founded in 2003 to help traumatized combat veterans to re-adjust to civilian life. Many of them returned with “invisible injuries” such as toxic chemical exposures, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). They can become trapped in an endless cycle of mental illness diagnoses and medications, medical appointments, and frustrations, sometimes ending in suicide.
Warfighter Advance is led by a diverse core team of professionals. It welcomes Warfighters who are struggling to reintegrate successfully back into society, regardless of service branch or dates or combat theater served. Warfighter Advance raises 100% of participant costs through 501 (c) (3) donations.
The organization rejects “mental illness” labels and the use of psychiatric medications, which can have devastating implications. The International Society for Ethical Psychology and Psychiatry (ISEPP) is a strategic partner of Warfighter Advance, advocating against conventional overuse of psychiatric medications and institutions. The book Mental Health Inc, (c) 2017 by Art Levine discusses this issue, and Bernie points particularly to Chapter 8.
The ADVANCE™ is an intensive 7-day program at Camp Merrick in Maryland to enable veterans to develop pride, productivity, healthy relationships, continued service, and advocacy for these same outcomes for their fellow service members. Veterans are asked to arrive with high expectations for themselves, and learn that their outcome is their responsibility, supported by the knowledge, tools, relationships and support necessary to move forward as Warfighters rather than as patients. They achieve empowerment and knowledge through education and training, including informed consent to mental health care, and benefit by contributing to the growth and well-being of others. Each newly formed Advance Unit is then tasked with a new Mission, becoming force-multipliers: Caring for each other and reaching out to other brothers and sisters in need of the same help. See information at or call (202) 239-7395.