Public Affairs Detail

PTSD is Real

PTSD is Real

Greetings from Robert Donofrio – Founder and Member of the Board of Directors of

POEinAction, Inc.  (A not for profit initiative)

  In 2001, an 18 year old from the heartland of our country, after hearing about the attacks of 9/11 volunteered to join the United States Marines. His girlfriend said she’d wait for him, his family said they were proud of him and his country said they needed him.

  Mike Sherman wore his uniform with pride and over a ten year span served 4 tours in the Middle East.  He did what was told of him.  He fought hard and long.  While on leave from Iraq he went home and married his childhood sweetheart.  He was in Afghanistan when his son was born. 

Ten years later in 2011, Elliott, his combat brother and an Army "wounded warrior" whom I mentor, suggested Mike talk to me after having met him at drug rehab in Twelve Oaks in Navarre.   Elliott told Mike that he too had seen the horrors of war.  He too had tried to numb up his feelings to what he had experienced and he too had considered suicide. I went to the halfway house Mike was living in at that time to meet him.  Mike told me about his drinking and how his wife had taken their child and left him. She told him that he wasn’t the boy she fell in love with anymore and he wasn’t the man she married.  He told me about the horrors of what he experienced in war and how he tried to "numb up” and "dumb up” his feelings with alcohol. He talked about the problems he created with his drinking and how the Marines tried to help him by sending him to an Alcohol Treatment Program.  He said his continued drinking and subsequent inappropriate behaviors resulted in his being booted out of the Marines; the only way of life he knew and loved. 

"I’m a trained killer” Mike told me, "and there isn’t any need for my type in civilian life. I don’t know how to do anything else and I don’t want to do anything else.”

I told Mike about resources and things available to him, but he said he wanted nothing to do with any of it. He wanted to be a Marine and he wanted to have his wife and son back.  Mike said he was told that neither of those things would ever happen.  Mike rejected my offers to talk and try to help. He requested that I stop trying to meet and talk to him.  The last time I saw him was when he told me to leave him alone as he turned and walked back into the House of Many Nations off of Blue Angel Boulevard. I sent numerous messages to him.  Later he sent word for me to stop calling him.  Mike said I was a nuisance.

On October 3rd, 2011, at age 28, Mike Sherman committed suicide and became a statistic.  He joined over 6,000 other service men and women who choose to die each year rather than live with what they experienced in America’s wars.  More who have worn the American uniform in this past decade have died of suicide than those who have died on the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

His friends and family miss him.  I now have another scar in my heart.  And Mike becomes another undiagnosed PTSD veteran who has died because we failed to understand and address his issues.

  Elliott continues to see me once a week; he doesn’t mention Mike in our conversations. Elliott with his missing leg now runs marathons.  He runs as if trying to flee the memories that are etched into his soul: the sounds and smells of violence.

Elliott is trying to be part of the solution.  He is reaching out every way he knows.  There is a "run” he wants to participate in to raise awareness for Veteran’s Suicide Prevention.  On Nov 8, 2015, he will snap on his running prosthesis and run the Pensacola Marathon in Pensacola, Florida, to bring awareness to this growing problem and to raise resources for veterans in need.

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                                 "PEACE ON EARTH and …”  (P O E)

POEinAction was formed in 2004 by a group of University Professors who wanted to go beyond the boundaries of their campus and assist those who never had the chance to expand their cognitive horizons and were trapped in a life of poverty, misfortune and suffering.  The organization was based on the tenants of the statement made by Gandhi, a remarkable man who’s simple nonviolent code inspired millions of people to improve their lot in life by expanding upon their individual spiritual foundations of helping themselves by helping others; thereby taking personal responsibility for the "creation of good.”

"... we need to be the change we want to see happen...”  Gandhi


POEinAction, Inc. is a not for profit 501-C-3 initiative made up of individuals who believe in civility, compassion, tolerance, mutual respect for human dignity and providing a service to our fellow  human beings. We come from all walks of life and we believe in assisting others to learn to help themselves and regain their life and dignity by becoming free from poverty, misfortune and suffering. Our members collaborate with and establish community partners in our goal to provide educational, behavioral, mental health, physical health, and social services for a wide range of those less fortunate individuals within our community.

The founding Board of Directors members were Marcia Howard, Holly Ellis and Robert Donofrio.  All three were faculty members at the University of West Florida in Pensacola at the time.  Dr. Howard was the interim Dean of the College of Business.  Dr. Ellis was working in the early special education section of the College of Education and Mr. Donofrio was an Assistant Professor in the Department of Nursing and working with the Juvenile Justice Section within the College of Education.  Doctors Howard and Ellis served on the Board of Directors (BOD) from 2004 until 2012. Mr. Donofrio continues to be a member of the board.

Subsequent BOD members included Joshua Haggard, MSW, Jake Schneide, BA, Michael Maxwell, BSW [MSW graduate student] and Elliott James Smith.

    Elliott J. Smith, US Army (Retired) who after losing his leg while serving in Iraq, developed PTSD and an addiction to his pain medications. His recovery path became an inspiration to others as he incorporated the concepts of helping himself by the act of helping others. Mr. Smith became a volunteer within POEinAction in 2008 and in 2012 accepted a seat on the BOD. Mr. Smith is a frequent motivational speaker presenting his story across the United States and in Europe where he participates with events for those victims of violence and to share his remarkable story of recovery.

Jake Schneider, CDR USN-Retired, joined the BOD in 2013. Jake earned his Purple Heart while serving as a Marine in Beirut Lebanon during the suicide bombing of the Marine Barracks in 1982.    After recovering from his wounds, he obtained his college degree and a commission as a Naval Officer. His last assignment was in Iraq.  His experiences resulted in a diagnosis of PTSD and upon retirement began his journey in the maze of confusion of trying to obtain services from the Veteran’s Administration.  Jake is now retired and working as a consultant in Washington DC.  He has participated in a POEinAction, Inc. project mentoring, coaching and advocating for others. Jake’s compassion and insight to military life and its challenges is a great contribution in assisting us in our wounded warrior and fallen hero’s project.  He relinquested his seat in 2015 to allow others to join the board to expand the POE team.

Robert Donofrio is a Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner/Mental Health Therapist, a veteran and an educator.  Initially a medic during the Vietnam era, while in the military he was selected to obtain his undergraduate and graduate Nursing Degrees from the University of Florida (UF) and was awarded a Naval Officer Commission in 1974. He was one of the first master’s prepared ARNP’s in the State of Florida and after receiving his second master’s degree in 1979, he was awarded an Adjunct Faculty position within the UF College of Medicine for his efforts in teaching Behavioral Medicine in the care of children and adolescents.  He retired from the military in 1990 after 23 years of service and joined the UWF Department of Nursing Faculty. After five years he switched his focus to working in clinical settings within his community.  Since leaving the UWF faculty he has worked part time within Juvenile Detention facilities, a county jail and an outpatient psychiatric clinic. Robert is an active volunteer with the USO and with numerous POEinAction initiatives.

The GANDHI BRIGADES – A POEinAction Initiative

All recipients of services from POEinAction are required to become volunteers within the organization as part of their responsibility to "pay it forward” for the services they receive from the organization. The training and life experiences recipients receive from our support groups, classes and activities provide excellent credentials to help others.  The act of helping others to help oneself is at the very core of the concepts within the POEinAction philosophy.  We strive to "do good, so we can do well and then be able to continue to do good for ourselves and others.”  We provide nothing to others for free. Doing so would lower the self-esteem of those who receive our assistance. Requiring recipients to go forward and help others as payment for services received fosters self-esteem and a greater vision of how we are all connected.  We adhere to the definition of success as "not how high one has climbed up on the ladder of success but how many others we have helped up the ladder behind us.” 

Volunteers within the POEinAction organization are referred to as the "GANDHI BRIGADES.”  Different brigades focus their efforts on specific targets of change.  A brigade targeting poverty will seek solutions to poverty by offering vocational counseling and training.  Developing entrepreneur-ship of creating businesses when there are no jobs available is an example resolving the threat of poverty. We have brigades targeting various issues rampant in our community; such as veteran’s issues, homelessness, unemployment, intimidation, ignorance, and the wide arena of abuse; be it substance or emotion or physical.  Our goal is always to empower others to learn to help themselves.          

   John Dykes,  USA- Retired, was one of our volunteers who learned to deal with his PTSD and facilitated one of our several PTSD support groups.  Today, John is fighting for his life as his young battle torn body is deteriating  and failing. 

We invite you to learn more about us and our work.  We have numerous projects and partnerships that include rescuing abandoned horses and using their habilitation as a means for those with PTSD and others with disabilities to connect on an emotional level with other creatures who have experienced pain. Numerous UWF students have participated in our projects for their clinical education.  Since 2012, we participated in the "Home for the Holidays” project where working with other groups, homeless veterans and others are placed in a motel for a month while they participate in training and classes that are aimed to break the cycle of helplessness.  For several years we assisted the Wounded American Veterans Events (WAVE)  "Day of Appreciation” where representatives from six yacht clubs along the Gulf Coast of Florida provide a picnic and sailing for Wounded American Veterans. In our Service Office in Gulf Breeze, and at other locations in Pensacola, POEinAction volunteers and staff provide Employee Assistance services, Mental Health Counseling, PTSD Support Sevices and a wide variety of other individual and group services. 

                                                        "... we need to be the change we want to see happen...”  Gandhi

For more information contact us at   [email protected]   or  850-484-3560 or  850-341-1399.

POE in Action, Inc.  Service Office: Midway Plazza, Unit 8, 5668 Hwy 98, Gulf Breeze, FL 32561

POE in Action, Inc.  Administration Office: 890 Lexington Road, Pensacola, Fl 32514


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11000 University Pkwy, Pensacola, FL 32514

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