He lived across the street from us in the home he bought as a newlywed. A World War II veteran, he always did his best to suppress tears whenever my curious young sons asked questions about his past. He told them about the D-Day landing at Omaha Beach, let them hold the pocket knife a French solider gave to him and shared how much he missed his wife while he was so far from home. His memories – good and bad – were still so painfully raw despite the years gone by.
The transition from military to civilian life is never an easy one, and the physical and mental wounds can last for decades. Historically, government services haven’t been equipped to provide the level of comprehensive support necessary as veterans strive to acclimate to their new life. In New Orleans however, returning warriors have an unprecedented opportunity to join a neighborhood “stronghold” where they can heal, find purpose, and renew their commitment to serve others: Bastion.
I have long been curious about Bastion, so realizing the St. Charles Avenue’s “Wine, Dine & Design” event would again benefit Bastion was an undeniable sign for me to finally visit. The moment I arrived at the five-and-a-half acre Gentilly based neighborhood, I was wowed by the 19 striking Jonathon Tate designed buildings. Each double family dwelling is strategically built to foster relationships by being positioned to face another home, not the street. Large porches and a central grassy courtyard encourage veterans and their families to interact, develop strong bonds and reap the mutual benefits of helping others.
Positioned closely to the homes, the Wellness Center is where I was privileged to meet Bastion Executive Director and Founder, Dylan Tête. Tête shared his moving experience of the difficult challenges he faced personally. Following a tour in Iraq as second in command of an infantry company, he returned home to discover his civilian life was one of isolation, loneliness and depression. Through his own recovery Tête became inspired to develop a long-term holistic approach to be offered in a caring, intentional environment specifically addressing the unique needs of returning warriors.
Bastion’s ultimate mission is for residents to maximize independence in the home and thus age in place. With 73 current residents, Bastion offers community-based mentorship by utilizing human capital to create a network of social and instrumental support. Residents and their caregivers are offered resources and assistance from dedicated Bastion staff to develop individualized life and care plans as well as the tools and resources to achieve their goals. Programs span a wide range from meal preparation and yoga classes, to financial planning and more critical care for those with Traumatic Brain Injury.
Already quite successful, it isn’t surprising Bastion has a waiting list of over 500 people and has embarked on plans and fundraising for a $4.5 million Phase 2 housing on adjoining property to the current location. While Phase 1 is structured to accommodate highly functioning veterans, the Phase 2 addition will be geared toward veterans who need more support. Additionally, new programs for Bastion residents are being developed through innovative partnerships with local nonprofits specializing in mental health services, career placement and recreational activities.
Resident Malik Scott best describes the essence of what this inspiring and caring community strives to offer those who have given so much of themselves to others through their military service. “Bastion has been a huge blessing for me and my family. It gave us hope at a time when hope was in question.”
A little more …
Support the Bastion mission by donating at JoinBastion.org.