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Event designed to bring peace to veterans

Wellness day dedicated to fallen soldier
By: Bridget Jones, Journal Staff Writer
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An Auburn program for veterans is reaching out to the community this weekend. The Forgotten Soldier Program is hosting its annual Day of Wellness and Healing from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the Veterans Memorial Hall in Auburn. The day is free to the community and offers veterans and their families a look into some of the services Forgotten Soldier offers including job assistance, nutritional advice, counseling, veterans resources, Tai Chi instruction, sound healing, acupuncture, acupressure and more. Live music and a free lunch are also included in the event. The program is a nonprofit organization offering free services to area veterans. In February, 48 veterans sought various services through Forgotten Soldier, which is located at the Healing Light Institute on Lincoln Way, according to Donna Arz, director of the program. Auburn resident Robert Gershon was a B-52 bomber crew chief with the Air Force. Since he began participating in the Forgotten Soldier Program, Gershon said he has gotten married, bought a house and started the Veterans Recovery in Action at the Healing Light Institute. “I believe that the Forgotten Soldier Program really provides a safe place for veterans like myself who not only seek help at the VA, but are also seeking help and benefits the VA doesn’t always have,” Gershon said. “I believe the Forgotten Soldier Program has really made me a whole person.” Gershon said there is a very important reason for the wellness event. “To let (veterans) know they are not alone – that there are people out there who care about them and have their interests at heart,” he said. Auburn resident and Vietnam veteran Cliff Blankenship will be leading Tai Chi demonstrations at the event. Blankenship said Tai Chi helps take away physical pains as well as helping with emotional troubles. “With me when I get irritated I go out in the back and I do Tai Chi,” Blankenship said. “What we want to do is show them a few exercises. I figured we can kind of help them loosen up a little bit. It really does help me calm down.” The event is dedicated to all the soldiers who have died during combat, especially Vincent Wayne Ashlock, of Monterey, according to Arz. Ashlock, a member of the National Guard, died in December while serving in Afghanistan. He was 45 years old. Angela Ashlock, Vincent Ashlock’s wife, is going to begin her life in Auburn this summer. Angela Ashlock has been attending the Forgotten Soldier Program, which also serves the families of veterans. “It’s more of an extended family,” she said. “I feel very welcome here. It’s a bittersweet honor (to have the event dedicated to Vincent). I just feel like he deserved that honor when he was alive, not when he was dead.” Attending the event and finding out about the program is better than giving in to drugs and alcohol to cope with post-traumatic stress disorder or the loss of a soldier family member, Angela Ashlock said. Arz said the event is not only about helping veterans but also making sure the community doesn’t forget its veterans. “It’s outreach for the community, asking the community to come together and support each other,” Arz said. “It’s about honoring the veterans.” Auburn resident Rich Ayala, who served in Berlin as part of the Army 82nd Airborne in the early 1960s, said he thinks the event is a great way to get the word out about the program. Ayala will also be demonstrating Tai Chi at the wellness day. “The event coming up … I know it’s going to help all the vets,” Ayala said. “I’m just going to try to be doing my part in helping the vets and helping myself at the same time. It’s just part of the family and coming here has been a lot of help to me. It will help a lot of guys that don’t know about this place.” Reach Bridget Jones at bridgetj@goldcountrymedia.com ------------------------------------------------------ Forgotten Soldier Program Day of Wellness and Healing What: A free event offering holistic treatments and educational services to local veterans and their families. When: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday Where: Auburn Veterans Memorial Hall, 100 East St., Auburn Information: Call (530) 889-2300 or visit forgottensoldierprogram.org The Healing Light Institute: 991 Lincoln Way, Auburn