JOHNSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — Twice a week, U.S. Army veteran Kristen Piatt and a group of local veterans meet up at Johnston Memorial Park.
It’s all part of what Piatt has dubbed a “Battles Walk,” which she organized to provide a safe space for veterans to discuss their experiences.
“It brings people together and gives them a sense of community,” Piatt explained. “Anybody that needs to come out and talk to somebody, or doesn’t even want to talk to somebody and wants to sit on a bench and watch us walk by, just know there’s somebody there if you need resources. We’re here for you.”
Piatt served two tours, one in Afghanistan and the other in Iraq, and described her experiences as eye-opening.
“I was young. It was my first time away from home,” Piatt recalled. “I’m not going to lie, I was scared. But I grew up real fast and my battle buddies became my family. I would literally trust every single person I was deployed with with my life.”
She stressed the importance of having a strong support system.
“Just knowing that there’s a time and a place you can go that someone will be there who knows what you’ve been through, just knowing you have that resource is huge for me,” Piatt said.
Bobby Abbruzzee, a U.S. Army veteran, said everyone is battling something, though some are struggling more than others.
“Life, work, Afghanistan, school, goals, dreams,” he said. “It’s never been more important that you never leave a buddy behind. All gave some, some gave all. That’s important.”
Elexious DaSilva said taking care of yourself mentally is just as important as taking care of yourself physically.
“I think it’s good,” she said of the biweekly gatherings. “It’s good to talk to other people who understand what you go through and you can relate to them on a different level that civilians wouldn’t understand.”
The Battles Walk takes place rain or shine on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6 p.m. Everyone is welcome to join the gathering, including veterans’ family members.
More Resources for Veterans and their Families
If anyone is in immediate danger or experiencing a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.
RIServes gives service members, veterans and their loved ones access to a variety of programs, “from superior housing and emergency service providers to employment, recreation and fitness, financial capabilities and more.” They can be reached at (401) 921-2119 or by filling out this online form.
If you are in crisis, please call the Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
This nonprofit’s mission is to “strengthen the veteran community by providing crucial wrap-around services” to homeless and at-risk veterans. These include employment and training programs, housing, legal services, and basic needs like food.
The Red Cross and its local chapters also connect veterans and their families with vital resources ranging from emergency needs like food, clothing and shelter, as well as counseling services and available benefits.
The United Way’s 24/7 hotline is a free, confidential service where trained professionals connects you with the resources you need in your community.
Call 211 to get help, or chat with a representative on their website.
This agency aims to “ensure every Veteran has an opportunity to make it in Rhode Island” by ensuring they and active service members receive proper medical care and working to reduce unemployment, poverty and homelessness among those who’ve served our country.
The office is located at 560 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick and can be reached at (401) 921-2119.