Alumni Evan and Jenny Owens may not have ever gone through basic training, much less served in combat, but the couple has still developed a passion for ministering to soldiers and their families. In fact, helping soldiers overcome the spiritual wounds of war has become this couple’s mission and led to them founding REBOOT Combat Recovery in 2011.
Jenny received her B.A. from Belmont in 2005 followed by a doctorate in occupational therapy, also from Belmont, in 2007. After graduating, she worked in neuro-rehabilitation at Vanderbilt and then with patients suffering traumatic brain injuries at the Warrior Resiliency and Recovery Center at Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital.
Jenny said, “I will never forget my first soldier patient. He was young, strong, handsome and totally intimidating. He seemed absolutely out of place among the wheelchairs and walkers that scattered the clinic. But, upon getting to know him, I came to recognize the invisible wounds that no less affected his mind and spirit. He was involved in a rocket attack at a gym in Iraq. It was a mass casualty situation. He dragged his workout buddy to safety before he even recognized that he was also injured. His greatest desire was to be returned to full duty and deploy, once again, with his unit to Afghanistan. But he had memory problems, trouble finding his way around, problems getting his words out, headaches and visual disturbances. Anxiety, a thing that had been completely foreign to him, bubbled under the surface… This is why REBOOT exists. This soldier is who we exist for. Because this soldier patient is one of a million like him.”
Evan added, “When Jenny accepted the position at Ft. Campbell as an OT, we moved into a community of military families. As we became friends with these families, we recognized that there were issues not being addressed through the traditional treatment models. During a road trip, my wife began reading a book about PTSD aloud. By the end of the chapter, we both had felt a calling, loud and clear that this was where we were to focus our efforts.”
In 2010, Jenny and Evan met with a combat-injured staff sergeant and his wife who had reached a crisis point and were desperate for hope. The two couples discussed difficult topics and talked about coping strategies, and before long, the support group of four had grown to 10. By the next year, Jenny and Evan knew this was their new calling, and REBOOT was born. “We had no plans of building a non-profit,” Evan said. “Our goal was to simply help a few friends by listening to them and supporting them in any way we could. It only took a couple meetings for us to be hooked! From there, doors began to open. We were invited on post to form our first REBOOT Combat Recovery group. Our group sizes quickly grew from 7 families, to nearly 20 in under a year. It was clear we had hit a nerve and people were responding. Other military bases began to call and ask how they could start holding REBOOT in their communities and the momentum continued. Today, REBOOT Combat Recovery has over eight locations and is on pace to serve over 750 families! We are proud of our 88 percent graduation rate, and nearly 25 percent of our graduates go on to become leaders within the organization.”
REBOOT Combat Recovery exists to support the healing of combat veterans and their families from the spiritual wounds of war. The nonprofit organization offers a 12-week flagship program that focuses on topics including “Where was God?” and “What Happened to Me?” as well as exploring subjects like guilt, forgiveness, grief and identity. Reboot also offers six-week continuation courses focusing on spiritual foundations and growth as well as specific issues faced by military families.
Evan, a 2005 music performance graduate who now serves on the University’s Alumni Board, began his career in sales and marketing before moving into technology. Until last summer, Evan served as the chief executive officer for CentreSource, a Nashville-based technology consulting and digital marketing company. Though he still consults with CentreSource, Evan decided to dedicate himself full-time to REBOOT, where he oversees service offerings, expansion strategy and fundraising as executive director.
REBOOT has now achieved a dozen rotations of its flagship 12-week trauma healing course at Fort Campbell and has served more than 180 individuals in that area with their free services. Seventy percent of REBOOT graduates to date have stayed involved with the program and continued with further courses, and REBOOT is now expanding to other areas with groups currently meeting in Nashville, Oklahoma City and Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Our mission is to help combat vets and their families heal from the spiritual wounds of war,” Evan said.
We plant missional communities that help change a military community from the inside out. Our reproducible model is powerful and scalable. Our goals for the next few years are to expand operations to over 20 locations around the country and to launch an online membership portal for churches or other non-profits who would like to use our model in their own contexts. There are other organizations around the country who would like to offer help to combat vets but lack the resources or expertise to do so. This online platform will not only produce a revenue stream to help make our non-profit more sustainable, but it will enable people (just like Jenny and I) to start making a lasting change in their own communities.”
REBOOT welcomes individuals and companies who want to contribute to their cause and encourage participation in their “22 Fund,” which named with respect for the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day. For $22 per month, donations can help a family of four find the help, hope and healing they need to recover from the wounds of war through REBOOT.