Acupuncture isn't a treatment you typically think of the military offering. But after five concussions from two deployments, Marine Kurt Garrett says this help at the National Intrepid Center for Excellence - or NICOE -- is one of the few ways he finds relief for the migraines triggered by his mild traumatic brain injury.
"The pain dissipates. The anxiety."
The 44-year-old's post-traumatic stress disorder was fully diagnosed here too. And while acupuncture helps his physical pain, art therapy unlocked him emotionally.
Garrett says, "As I'm walking through my story I'm actually making it in clay because I didn't know how to express it."
Painting sparked his real breakthrough.
"It's everything that's been bothering me for years. Everything I've seen. I've witnessed. Once I saw it all in that mask in one space, it was like -- opened my eyes and made it easier to talk."
Art therapy is part of the interdisciplinary and holistic diagnostic and treatment approach they take at the NICOE.
"The patients, while they're here, will have, in a four week period, over 104 encounters with our providers. That would equal approximately a year and a half to two years of encounters that you would get in a regular outpatient basis," said NICOE Deputy Director Dr. Thomas Degraba.
Here at the NICOE, they pride themselves on using cutting edge, innovative technology that's really tailored to service members. So for example, in one room they have converted service weapons they use with a firearm training simulator to assess patients' physical and psychological well being.
The 72,000 square foot facility aims to combine the best of western medicine with eastern concepts so it also includes meditation, labyrinth walking, sleep studies and spirituality consultation.
Service members can even find a sense of calm by helping train service dogs for wounded warriors.
The military provided the land for this Department of Defense institute that began seeing patients in 2010.
But the outpatient facility is in many ways a gift from the American people since the millions needed to build it was raised by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes fund.
Fund spokesperson Bill White says, "This is a great example of the public and private sector coming together. We raised almost $85 million from 600,000 Americans."
But one center isn't proving enough -- so now the fund is raising money to build a series of satellite centers. Construction has already begun at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
"There are tens of thousands of other service members that we got to get to. We've got to be there for them to say thank you," said White.
After getting help himself, Garrett says care can't come soon enough for his fellow military members still suffering.
"I'm really glad they are expanding this concept and taking it around the country. Come in with an open mind. Be willing to talk. It does get better. And sign up for art."
Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund