Operation Freedom Bird

Operation Freedom Bird, is a non-profit, therapeutic program aimed at helping combat veterans, from all wars, continue the process to heal from their symptoms of PTSD and unresolved grief/loss. 

Operation Freedom Bird, Inc.

“The Healing Journey"

Dear Provider,

Thank you for your consideration to nominate one, or more, of your veteran clients. Operation Freedom Bird Inc.’s (“OFB”) “Healing Journey” was created to provide combat veteran participants with a unique opportunity to share their wartime experiences and confront their feelings, all while paying tribute to their fallen comrades. This year, 2014, marks the 16th year that Southwest Airlines has graciously donated tickets to fly our veteran participants to the War Memorials in our Nation’s Capital for this therapeutic journey and Veterans Day ceremonies. This four–day experience could not have been possible without Southwest Airlines’ support and we are extremely grateful.

The annual journey was initiated in 1988 at the suggestion of America West Captain Pat Lynch. Lynch completed his Vietnam tour of duty with the US Army’s 158th Aviation Battalion, 101st Airborne Division in 1969. He was awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and an Air Metal with “V” for Valor. Nearly two decades later, as a pilot with America West, he sought a means of reaching out to his fellow veterans. Lynch conceived the idea of the Freedom Bird, named in honor of the Freedom Bird Flights that transported members of the Service back to the United States at the end of their tour in Vietnam. Then, Lynch took his idea to America West Airlines and they gave their approval.

Through the history of the program, OFB has helped Vietnam Veterans from the Arizona Vet Centers around the state. Additionally, some Journeys have included, male and female veterans from Las Vegas, Columbus, San Francisco, San Diego, and Albuquerque. Under the current structure, all veterans will be selected from the State of Arizona. 

In 2010, the program expanded and extended its Healing Journey to combat vets from all wars. We welcome our country’s newest generation of combat veterans those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to the brotherhood of combat veterans that sacrificed for this great nation.

In 1998, OFB began its first year as a separate organization funded by private contributions. It has evolved to become a 501(c)(3), nonprofit organization that works to coordinate and obtain support, sponsorship, and raise the funding necessary to cover the expenses for the annual OFB Healing Journey, including travel, lodging and meals. We ask that the veteran, themselves, provide $100, non-refundable payment, once accepted into program to create a greater level of adherence to the process, requirements, and overall emotional participation. The rest of the expenses are covered by OFB, via fundraising and donations. We are an all volunteer staff; 96.5% of all donated dollars go toward this four-day Healing Journey.

Because of the generous contributions and efforts of many in our community, and providers like you, the Freedom Bird Tradition continues.

Criteria for Nomination or Self Referral

Each referral is reviewed, case by case, by our clinical team for readiness to embark on The Healing Journey. The emotions experienced can be very powerful, thus readiness,and some level of progress achieved in the provider's treatment plan are paramount.  To participate in this Journey, the nominee must be a combat veteran. This is a “substance-free/alcohol-free” journey; however, if the veteran nominee is required to take prescriptions, please enumerate medications on the application. The veteran must be able to walk distances (two miles at a time) as there will be no transportation provided between memorials at the mall. We tour as a group and must stay together. Use of a cane is not uncommon however, ability to stay with pace of the group is necessary to keep to the sometimes ambitious schedule. We are unable to provide wheelchairs. All nominees must be willing to meet with their providers post Journey **.

How to Nominate or Self Refer

To nominate one or more combat veterans, or self refer, please fill out the form below. If you are provider, an email will be sent to you with an ID number for each veteran nominee. This ID number will be used for all electronic communication. The email will also include an attached document, the Application, where you will provide detailed information about the veteran. Please download the Application, rename it with the ID number given in the email, once completed, attach it an email back to info@operationfreedombird.org.  If you are referring yourself, you will be called directly to discuss criteria. 

You will be notified as soon as possible regarding your nominee’s acceptance to this year’s OFB Healing Journey to give you ample time to prepare your veteran. If your veteran is not selected to attend the 2013 Healing Journey, please know that next year’s Journey is still an option for your applicant.   

The Healing Journey

Prior to the Journey, we will be gathering all the participants, and family members, for one eight hour, mandatory, Pre-Journey meeting to discuss the Healing Journey.  We will prepare the veterans for not only what they might experience, but also how to utilize internal and external resources and methods for affect regulation. The dates for these meetings will be sent to as soon as scheduled. Spouses and loved ones will not be traveling along to DC. Part of the healing process occurs by the bonding of the veterans with other veterans alone. Their pain began together and the program is designed to help them begin the healing together. We will be giving special activities to the spouses, and loved ones, during the meetings and post Journey, as we understand that they too have been greatly impacted by their veteran’s service. 

During the Journey, there will be licensed therapists, all with experience in the treatment of veterans, accompanying the participants to support and guide them throughout the program. Our goal is to provide your or your patient with a potentially life changing and healing experiential journey, allowing the two of you to utilize these insights for further progress in your private treatment. 

Post–Journey, providers will be provided with observations regarding your veteran’s experiences, insights, etc., and each participant will be provided with a journal to make notes encouraging them to share with you their specific observations, insights, and emotions. We will be available to staff with you further should you need more information. 

** All participants must have a commitment to return to session with their providers to debrief and continue their treatment, as deemed necessary by the provider.

NOTE: The last page of the application form contains the Release of Information (ROI) necessary for our continued communication. You may fax it back to the number listed or scan and attach it along with application in the return email. Please call Annette Hill at (602) 334-5147 if you have further questions before filling out this form. 

Thank you again for your interest and for all that you do to help those who have served our nation.

Name of Veteran *
Name of Veteran
Phone *
Address *
Please list nominee's first name and last initial only, as well as a contact number for the vet. An ID# will be emailed to you along with the Application as attachment. Please use this unique ID# given for each veteran in all electronic correspondence to maintain confidentiality. Follow directions on Application and send as attachment(s) in your return email.