The idea was for Thompson to lead retreat participants through traditional American Indian warrior ceremonies. It made sense to him, the 59-year-old said, because even though weapons and strategies change from war to war, the psychological impact is much the same.
So Thompson and his wife, Kelli, a social worker, decided to give it a try. They attended their first retreat in April. By the end of that weekend, they were convinced they had been called there by a higher power.
The camp is open to any U.S. soldier, but most participants have recently returned from deployment in the Middle East, Thompson said. The majority suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, he said, and many are suicidal or are a signature away from divorce.
But when the soldiers participate in the ceremonies of his ancestors, Thompson said, they undergo a visual transformation. The rituals validate their service, he said, and prepare them for the future, whether that means living on the home front or going back to war.