Lieutenant Colonel Chris Story, of Southampton, is almost at the end of active duty in the U.S. Marine Corps.
At age 43, he has served 19 years in the Marines, and is the executive officer at the Marine Detachment, Naval Supply Systems Command-Weapon Systems Support located near Oxford and Levick Avenues in Northeast Philadelphia. Chris has served at the Defense Logistics Agency-Aviation in Richmond, VA. Other locations include Yuma, AZ, Newport, RI, Quantico, VA, Fort Worth, TX, and Kaneohe Bay, HI.
As he nears the end of his military career, Chris wants to continue to serve his community by giving back to youth and adults battling substance abuse.
He is preparing for it through the Travis Manion Foundation’s Spartan Leadership Program (SLP).
The Foundation is a Veteran’s non-profit organization that facilitates character and leadership development for veterans and families of the fallen.
They receive philanthropic support from the Boeing Corporation for the SLP.
What does the SLP look like for its first class of 20 students?
To find out, I first spoke with USMC Major Josh Jabin of Yardley, who serves with Chris as an augment at the Marine Detachment is the Chief Operating Officer for the Travis Manion Foundation.
Josh describes the SLP program as, “Training and supporting veterans to support themselves, and empowering them to support their community.”
The first class is a combination of 18 veterans and “survivors,” the families of fallen heroes.
They are trained in what Josh refers to as “positive psychology.”
According to Josh, SLP aims to enhance traditional psychology. “We don’t want to simply put veterans and survivors through traditional psychological therapy as is done for returning veterans battling PTSD and survivors battling grief. We want them to do traditional therapy and then go beyond it to thrive and have a purpose. When on active duty you have a sense of purpose and camaraderie. When you take off the uniform, that is what you miss the most. What SLP aims to do is help veterans to maintain that sense of purpose and camaraderie. We want them to help themselves and then go out and then use that empowerment to serve others and continue to have a purpose.”
Chris Story’s work with the SLP is to help people with substance abuse issues. This is very personal for Chris, who lost one of his brothers to opioid addiction.
Chris reflects, “My brother was a good person. He kept falling back into the opioid track. Substance abusers go through a progression of getting addicted to pain pills and then heroin.”
His method is two-fold, consisting of physical training and the same personal empowerment training he is doing with SLP.
The physical training comes right out of Chris’ personal experience.
He is an experienced marathon runner and would like to teach young people battling addiction that exercise and physical activities are a positive alternative to substances.
Chris says, “There is so much medical research on the mind-body connection. Exercise will help these people.”
He points out that, “In a good 12-step program, it is hard to replace the euphoric feeling produced by the substance. I would like to use the body’s natural euphoric response to exercise to replace it.”
Chris plans to work with incarcerated (convicted, non-violent offenders) and adults in half-way houses.
Although his program is still in the planning phases, he has experience doing it.
“I was a mentor for the Travis Manion Foundation before being selected for the Spartan Leadership Program. I went out to schools and spoke to students in conjunction with Memorial Day and Veterans Day. I spoke to basketball and baseball teams at a charter school and other middle and high schools. Primarily veterans and Gold Star family members can give these presentations.”
The character development component comes out of Chris Story’s training in the SLP.
“The first phase of the SLP training is ‘Personal Growth’ which is looking inward. The introspection has been good. I was trained to identify my own personal strengths and then how to use them to improve myself so that I can take on a community leadership role. I would like to put these struggling people through the same introspection training and teach them to find what their strengths are.”
Chis’ hope is that this personal strength identification in combination with therapeutic physical exercise will help those struggling with substance abuse on their journey to recovery.
PHOTO CAP: Lieutenant Colonel Chris Story