Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Veteran Voices: Gloucester Nonprofit Helping Those with PTSD Heal

A Knott Alone-Hold Fast fishing trip. (Courtesy of Consociate Media)

GLOUCESTER — Dan Knott, the founder of Knott Alone-Hold Fast, was in a dark place. He had recently turned down an Apache battalion command in Germany with the U.S. Army, his work with the Joint Special Operations Command was taking a toll on him, and his family and personal life were in turmoil.

“After spending 22 years in the Army as an attack helicopter pilot, most of which was with the Joint Special Operations Command with a dozen combat deployments, I was broken. I didn’t want to admit it and continued ‘the act’ until I broke. My brokenness meant that my marriage was trashed, my wife and kids were having issues of their own and my friends and family had been pushed away. I was drinking heavily and taking many unnecessary risks. It came to head when I felt like a burden to the world and nearly allowed my suppressed anger and rage to unleash on a person and then end it all,” Knott said.

After returning to crabbing and fishing, Knott remembered why the water was a calming place for him. He met a local priest who was burnt out from his work who would occasionally join him on the water. During a conversation, Knott helped him realize his goal of becoming an Air Force Chaplain. After taking him out on the water the night before he was leaving for the Air Force, the priest made him promise that he would find a way to help other veterans who were struggling.

Crabbing with retired Army Lt. Col. Dan Knott, who runs the veterans assistance program Hold Fast. (Courtesy of Consociate Media)

“I went to the water, the same water that my grandfather worked on. Working on the water allowed me the time and space to slowly open up to others. This allowed me to realize that my story was not uncommon and I needed help to survive and that asking for help was OK. I learned to find my way to a life that I wanted to live. I am now at the point where I want to share this experience with others,” Knott said.

It was then that Knott Alone-Hold Fast was born.

The Knott Alone-Hold Fast mission is to support veterans battling the effects of military service while helping them love life again through hands-on commercial fishing activities combined with integrative therapy.

The goal is to eventually turn 130 acres in Gloucester into a traditional fishing village, where veterans can seek help through an integrative therapy program. The sanctuary will provide an opportunity for veterans to open up and connect while harvesting seafood, forming bonds, and seeking assistance.

Activities in consideration for programming include crabbing, oystering, fishing aquaculture, shoreline vegetation production, boat and gear work, blacksmithing and leatherwork. As the program grows, the Knott Alone-Hold Fast team hopes to add yoga, meditation, workforce training, job placement, peer support, and group therapy sessions.

“We will have all of these things to be able to keep people occupied while they are getting treatment,” Knott said.

The group currently has housing for six personnel in two units rented from the Middle Peninsula Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority (MPCBPAA). It hopes to expand to be able to help even more veterans and first responders struggling with PTSD. There is also a psychologist on staff.

According to Knott, there have been multiple success stories. With their participation in the program, Knott has found that many members have quit drinking, sought treatment for addiction, and are learning positive ways to face their PTSD demons head-on.

A view off of one of the Knott Alone-Hold Fast crabbing boats. (Dan Knott)

“I am combining the mindfulness found from working on the water with an individualized integrative therapy program. This nonprofit will provide veterans opportunities to connect with nature and other veterans while harvesting and growing seafood, creating and restoring oyster reefs and cleaning up and protecting shorelines. The program will provide veterans with opportunities to work on themselves and with their families to obtain deserved veterans benefits, participate in an array of integrative therapy options, and/or enter a career path of working on the water,” Knott said.

There is no fee for the program.

Knott says that by helping just one person, he’s fulfilled his mission.

“There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to life after combat, which is why Hold Fast is designed to help you find your way,” Knott said.

The public can help Knott Alone-Hold Fast by making donations to the organization on its website. For more information on Knott Alone-Hold Fast, visit holdfast.vet.

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