HELENA — A veteran and active-duty gym called the Adaptive Performance Center (APC) has been awarded a Staff Sergeant Parker Gordon Fox Suicide Prevention Grant by the Veteran’s Administration (VA).
This is the second time APC has received a grant since they first opened their location in Helena less than a year ago that will help expand the services they can provide to our nation’s heroes; adding an occupational therapist, Veteran peer coordinator and more important staff.
According to Eddie Aguasanta who retired from the Marine Corps as a lance corporal more than a decade ago, APC helped him find a sense of community after retiring from the service. Additionally, the struggles he faced after two heavy combat tours in Iraq in 2003 and 2004 centered more on his deteriorating mental health.
“There was a deafening silence where there was nothing, but the sounds of all the things happening there and all the people going on…” Aguasanta said. “… It clashes so much with the reality of being back home.”
He recalls attempting suicide when struggling with many mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress. He survived and knew he had to turn for help, seeking refuge in physical therapy he found a sense of belonging in personal health at APC.
According to the gym’s Chief Executive Officer and co-founder Karen Peterson who shares a love of physical fitness and mental health, she recognizes the great need of veterans for rehabilitation in a safe and welcoming environment where they can be themselves and feel which is accepted.
“Mitch and I saw a lot of holes in the services available to veterans,” Peterson explained. “One of the things that makes us different is that if we don’t see you for a week, you get a phone call.”
He explained that in addition to a person being physically healthy, a big mission of theirs is to fight veterans and active duty suicide. Acknowledging that Montana has an above average rate compared to the national rate of veterans who commit suicide.
Mitch Crouse, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of APC says between their first location located in Billings and the newest location in Helena, they have almost doubled the number of members with a total of almost 1400 service members using their gyms.
“We’ve grown quite a bit and we’ve added a lot of things…” Crouse said.
Peterson explained that while they’re not trying to replace or recreate what the VA does to help support service members, the grant they’re being given this time will ensure they stay strong. and continue their momentum in the field of military support services.
“Thanks to this provision we have gone from four of us, to 17 employees in two locations,” he said.
For veterans like Aguasanata, that means being able to pursue his passion for fitness; he now does what he loves every day as manager of the Helena gym, helping service members who come through the doors overcome any obstacles with the same love and support he once did.