By: Dale King
Veterans Day weekend 2019 was particularly significant this year. Not only did it mark the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I, but the remembrance continued to underscore the need for timely and proper medical care for soldiers during wartime and after, when the rigors of battle are often at their worst.
Boca Raton-based Connected Warriors, the largest volunteer organization in the US offering evidence-based, trauma-conscious free yoga therapy and behavioral health services to service members, veterans, first responders and their families, marked its own 10th anniversary with a gala at the Boca Marriott two days before Veterans Day.
The Connected Warriors’ Stars of Honor event also paid tribute to Dr. Ira J. Gelb, a regimental surgeon during the Korean War who returned to the US to complete his medical studies and launch a lifetime career as a physician. The man of healing is held in particular regard locally for founding the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine at Florida Atlantic University in 2009. He is still assistant dean and a clinical professor there.
Dr. Gelb, with his wife of 49 years, June, by his side, was the last to speak during the fundraising event along with CW founder and yoga instructor Judy Weaver, honorary chair Pamela Polani and emcee Neil Saffer, who also conducted a rousing and apparently worthwhile live auction. Co-chairs were Jan Savarick and Keith O’Donnell.
Mayor Scott Singer and City Council members Jeremy Rodgers, Andrea Levine O’Rourke and Andy Thompson presented a mayor’s commendation to the Gelbs. FAU President John Kelly was shown on a video praising the med school founder.
Weaver, a former yoga therapist, said she started CW with a single yoga class that she taught. Later, she helped the late Army Ranger Beau MacVain cope with a devastating illness that followed his return from five tours of duty in the Middle East.
“I worked with him and his family for 2 ½ years until he passed away.” His inspiration led her to build and expand the group.
To date, she said, Connected Warriors has provided assistance to more than 11,000 veterans and service members with more than 1,700 classes in 24 states, eight countries, 16 active-duty military installations and 35 veterans centers. All courses are conducted by volunteers.
“We help [participants] navigate through their new normal,” she said.
CW training, the founder noted, provides the following: Understanding of military culture; knowledge of the effect of trauma on the nervous system; cognizance of the use of yoga as a tool for growth and wellness and proficiency in Connected Warriors class protocols.
Keynote speaker was A.S. Minor, a veteran and a spoken word poet, who read and acted out “Final Services,” a piece he wrote. It told poignantly of the sad, thankless task of having to process the personal effects of soldiers killed in action.
During his time at the microphone, Dr. Gelb, said he learned early on in medical training to “treat patients as individuals.” He graduated from high school in Flushing, N.Y. at age 16 and completed his doctorate at New York University at age 23.