The Soldiers Project: Honoring Our Veterans From Iraq

Today, on Veteran’s Day in the United States, we honor Judith Broder for helping veterans and their family members leave the scars of war behind and come home again.

Judith Broder, a psychiatrist, was drawn to create The Soldiers Project while watching a raw and powerful play written by a former Marine – "The Sand Storm: Stories from the Front" – which portrays the anguish U.S. soldiers face fighting in Iraq. She felt devastated, realizing that they had "done what they had to do but couldn’t live with themselves afterwards."

The Soldiers Project recruits volunteer therapists to provide unlimited, free, confidential therapy to combat veterans – and their families. The sessions aim to alleviate the behavioral problems that can result from combat trauma and address personal, moral, and spiritual crises that may follow grim wartime experiences or personal actions.  Broder says the five-year-old program has a network of more than 200 volunteers, has treated more than 300 patients in the Los Angeles area, and is being replicated in other cities.

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And for her extraordinary contribution in her encore career, Broder was awarded the 2009 Purpose Prize at a gala event in Palo Alto, CA.

How she’s helping:
A 35-year-old veteran came to The Soldiers Project after a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder. He couldn’t drive on his own because overpasses frightened him. He suffered from flashbacks, bursts of terror, and nightmares, his volunteer therapist recalls.

The veteran’s marriage to a high school sweetheart was unraveling. Therapy ranged from dealing with memories of violence at the hands of his father to recollections of brutal firefights in Iraq and the killing of an Iraqi family, his therapist says. His central struggle was between the image of himself as "hulk" and killer and his softer self.

After many months, the volunteer says, the veteran’s post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms eased: "He brought his wife to sessions, and I saw his deep capacity to nurture, to show me and himself that he was not the monster he sometimes became."

Although Broder, 69, knew very little about the military health system before she started The Soldiers Project, she knew enough about how people react to trauma to be convinced that with more than a million soldiers returning to their old lives – sometimes after multiple deployments – there would be a need for help.

Broder says that The Soldiers Project helps soldiers come home in the fullest sense, not just physically but mentally.

"The people we provide care for are our family," she says. "They give to our country in ways that are unimaginable, and the wounds they carry are hidden and forgotten by most of the population. My passion is to be an advocate for them, to teach them, and provide the care they need."

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The Purpose Prize is awarded each year to ten social innovators over the age of 60 who are compelled to put their passion to work in an encore career. Read about the winners of the 2009 Purpose Prize, or nominate yourself or someone you know for the 2010 Purpose Prize. Nominations are open until March 5, 2010.

photo: Judith Broder

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Angela K.
Angela K.8 months ago

Thank you

Kevin Lyerla
Kevin Lyerla9 months ago

Thank you

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.1 years ago

"They give to our country in ways that are unimaginable'" They were brainwashed and used to turn Iraq from a secular dictatorship where women could dress like western women and go to school to an Islamic dictatorship with civil war and regular bombing where Al Qaida can now operate and where women no longer have any rights. Perhaps someone can tell me what exactly this gives to our country or any country.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thanks for this information.

Ernest Roth
Ernest R.2 years ago

@ Paula L. “1 who served in Vietnam to come home and be called a "baby killer". Unfortunately for him, a photographer reporter had a conscience and released the photos. Not all Viet Nam vets commited those crimes but all were accomplices, even though unwilling ones.

Fred Hoekstra
Fred Hoekstra2 years ago

Thank you Alicia, for Sharing this!

Abbe A.
Azaima A.3 years ago


Ernest R.
Ernest R.4 years ago

Many ex soldiers have difficulties living with memories of crimes [yes, crimes] they comitted while in service even if they don't reconnize the campaign [ like Vietnam, Iraq, etc.] as a crime. The problem is draft or uninformed enlistment.

Akin Adelakun
Akin Adelakun4 years ago

Thank you for posting

Rumana A.
Rumana A.4 years ago

Help veterans and all those who have served our country so well find jobs today! Please spread the word. Take 2 minutes and click on our page and use the "Suggest to Friends" button on the left to invite all your friends to help veterans find jobs! and