Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects many of our veterans, but most are ill equipped to speak out or seek treatment. Coffee Vets hopes to bring awareness to a serious mental health issue.
BY BRENDA BUCHANAN
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
What do coffee, Annapolis and neurology all have in common?
After speaking with Kip Nicely of Coffee Vets in DC, the connecting lines became much clearer. Coffee Vets is a non-profit company that donates 100% of its proceeds to help battle PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and encourage veterans get the best care they can find. For Kip, the decision to start Coffee Vets wasn’t a sudden epiphany but a lifetime of experience leading him to act.
Kip’s story traces back much further than the Coffee Vets launch in June 2016. He grew up in a military family; his father served in the Army Infantry so his childhood was spread across army bases. PTSD wasn’t a phrase used back then ”Kip remembers hearing about it from his father as, œshell shock or œcombat fatigue. Kip followed his family’s path and entered the Annapolis academy proceeding to fly in the Navy for nine years. Another 16 years in the Navy Reserves and Kip moved on to work in the House of Representatives. Kip says that with a life lived in the military and surrounded by vets returning home, that PTSD was always a part of his world’s landscape.
It wasn’t until the birth of his son that Kip began to understand the power of the brain in an intimate way. His son was born missing most of his brain. Kip’s life shifted as he stepped away from his military career to take care of his son full time. While caring for his son he began to dive into understanding how the brain works.
œWe [Kip and his wife] spent a lot of time with brain-injured kids. It’s a core part of our life. It’s different than combat but it’s still a brain injury. While taking care of his son he began to connect the dots between two very different brain injuries: his son’s and soldiers with PTSD.
œWe all have our area, Kip mused, œThis one made sense for me. I’ve learned so much about the brain and how much it can change. Kip was ready to do his part. Coffee Vets sells whole bean and ground coffee online, and contributes profits to various organizations helping veterans deal with PTSD. You don’t have to buy coffee to help, however. In addition to launching Coffee Vets, Kip and his team also launched 22 Heroes to Zero, a crowd funding campaign to fight PTSD.
22 Heroes to Zero joined forces with the Veterans of Foreign Wars at their national convention earlier this year with the goal of raising funds and encouraging veterans to seek help. Kip’s team has carefully selected 22 organizations that are working to help veterans with PTSD. Their short-term goal is to raise 220,000 dollars in 22 days. œWe like to use the number 22 as much as possible, notes Kip, œIt might seem cheesy but it’s a good way of reminding us of the core of our work: that roughly 22 veterans take their live every day because of PTSD.
Beyond crowd funding efforts, Kip’s long-term goal is to continue raising awareness around PTSD and how it affects people. œAwareness is a vague word, but it’s important. This isn’t just veterans, PTSD can effect anyone who has undergone trauma. It’s physical, mental, and there’s a lot of shame involved. People can’t act, can’t change, unless they first know. My hope is that people will reach out and try to understand those around them struggling with PTSD and get involved at their local level.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Brenda Buchanan is a writer, designer and coffee enthusiast living in Oakland, California. Outside her work hours she’s an avid crossword puzzler and Scotch Revivalist.