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Draper Journal

3 Veterans with a cause

Nov 06, 2018 02:54PM ● By Jana Klopsch

By Michelynne McGuire | [email protected]

Every person has a unique story with a destiny to fulfill. Here are three brave veterans who kindly shared a little about their lives and how they are transforming the world. 

Tony Pistone

Tony Pistone, a veteran, and his wife, Ester, have devoted their lives to serving their community with a therapeutic program called Headin’ Home, which is an equine therapy for veterans, first responders, victims of domestic violence, people with disabilities and others in need. 

The organization began around three years ago with this mission statement: “To heal the mind, body and spirit of both horse and human.” The goals of Headin’ Home are to rescue neglected and abused horses, or horses headed for slaughter, and to share the healing power of horses by providing free equine therapy to veterans with PTSD and the others mentioned.

Ester and Tony have seen firsthand the healing miracles that go with working with horses. 

Not only does the person bond with the horse, the horse also bonds with the person.  

“You can see it in their eyes, when the horse feels special again, feeling like they have a person to be with,” said Ester. 

The veterans work with therapists in the program as well. “We do different exercises,” said Tony. With horses, he emphasizes the importance of gaining their respect — they listen to you because you respect them and they respect you. 

“Horses are like people; they all have a unique personality,” said Tony. 

Volunteers and donations, for the help with cost of food, supplies, equipment and veterinary services, all help in supporting this program. Headin’ Home provides the healing therapy to veterans and first responders entirely free of charge. 

Ellen Gore

One volunteer, who can attest to the healing effects of Headin’ Home, is retired Staff Sergeant Ellen Gore, who served in the military for 20 years. Gore has been to Korea, Thailand, Iraq, Afghanistan and other bases in the States and was deployed four times, two times to Iraq and two times to Afghanistan. Gore has two grown sons she’s so proud of, one of whom is now in the Air Force.

“(The military) gave me direction and purpose, which I never felt before,” said Gore. 

Gore remembers a time at a young age feeling a desire to join; she recalled upon the occasion when Senator John McCain came to Alhambra High School where she attended. McCain spoke about being a prisoner of war.

“Being part of something bigger than myself, and that’s why I loved the military,” said Gore.   

And with it came its share of hardships, “seeing the worst in humans and the best,” said Gore. 

When Gore volunteers with Headin’ Home, she’s noticed significant improvements. 

“Being around the horses calms me, teaching me trust, helping me to focus, taught me confidence…helping me to curb my thoughts,” said Gore. “The best thing about Headin’ Home — nobody’s judging me except the horses,” said Gore in good jest. 

Vincent Vargas

You may have seen Vincent Vargas on the TV show “Mayan’s M.C.,”, and can check out an upcoming show he is on, airing on the History Channel on Nov. 20, called “Brothers in Arms.”  

He is currently writing a book “about transition, little bit of self help and personal growth,” said Vargas. He touches a lot on his military experience, and pulls from other aspects of his life that anyone can identify with, he said.

Being a father, baseball player and having worked in corrections are all contributing experiences he pulls from. The book is called “Light The Fuse” and it is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.  

Vargas transitioned from getting his start as a decorated Army Ranger and Army Reserve drill sergeant and is now fulfilling something that was always in his heart to do: spending more time with his family, raising his children and pursuing an acting career.  

“Transition is just normal to everyone’s life,” said Vargas.  Along with his newest book he’s also written two children books available on Amazon: “My Dad Has the Most Important Job in the World” and “My Military Dad Does Things a Little Different.” 

It was all a process, and Vargas does recommend after serving in the military “getting counseling … fixing the emotional damage that has been done from the trauma of being in the military.” 

He also counsels his friends to stay busy. “Create small missions for yourself, and once you accomplish that, create a new mission.” A stagnant mind can cause depression, but by staying busy and always having a dream to work toward, we can start to see small successes, he said.

And keep busy he does. Vargas also owns Throwbacks Barber Company in downtown Salt Lake City. 

“It’s the old feel of going to a barber shop… an experience,” said Vargas. 

We’re all on a journey, transitioning every day, and sometimes we all need a helping hand along the way. Just doing what we can to help is the start to a new day.

Feel free to contact Headin’ Home to volunteer or to donate supplies — they always appreciate it, as do the horses.  

Check out Vincent Vargas’ books on Amazon. And don’t miss his appearance on the History Channel, “Brothers in Arms,” airing Nov. 20.