Yoga helps military veterans connect

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Most military veterans probably wouldn't start their day on a yoga mat, surrounded by strangers.

But J.J. Pinter, an Army veteran who served in Iraq, says he's glad to be here.

"So, it's crazy," Pinter says.  'If you would have asked me, when I was in the Army, if I ever would have done yoga, I would have said you were crazy."

But here Pinter is, the Executive Director of non-profit Team Red, White & Blue, following Ashley Dunlop of Decatur Yoga as she leads them through a series of sometimes challenging poses.

"It's more physically challenging than people think it is," Pinter says.  "So, whenever someone thumbs there nose at it, I say, 'You come with me and you do this event, and you tell me if it's as easy as you think it is.'"

The event is part of hundreds sponsored by Team Red, White & Blue to bring military veterans together.

Megan King grew up in the military, then served 5-years in the Navy.

And when she left that life at 26, it was hard to make peace with the powerful sense of community she lost.

"You speak a slightly different language," King says.  "You move at a slightly different pace. So you feel like, 'Wow, who am I?  Am I standing here on an island?  I just wish I had someone who got me.'"

Here, they do get vets. 

Because the search for understanding and common ground is what drives these Team Red, White & Blue.

The timing may be critical.

As American comes of out its longest war, the Veterans Administration says an average of 20 veterans, active-duty military members, guardsman and reservists are dying from suicide every day. 

"There is a loneliness epidemic in Atlanta right now, and veterans are part of that as well," Pinter says.  "So this connection, getting veterans out of the basement, off the couch, away from their jobs, being connected with other veterans, and being connected with supportive members of the community, is critically important."

When he left the Army,  Patrick Griffith of Kennesaw, Georgia, who served in Afghanistan, says almost no one in his new life wanted to talk about where he'd been, or what he'd been through.

"Instead of addressing it at all, it was, let's just leave that door shut and not talk about it," Griffith says. 

Here, almost everyone understands his history.

"To be able to get in a room and talk to someone who knows exactly what you went through, it's kind of a relief that you don't have to consistently explain (yourself)," Griffith says.

Out here, all you have to do is let go and breathe.

"It doesn't get any easier than doing some yoga, having some coffee with people and making some relationships out of that," Griffith smiles.

Every event Team RWB sponsors free to veterans and those who support them.  

 The non-profit has 200 groups across the U.S. and hosted about 40,000 events in 2018, from runs to CrossFit classes.

For more information on Team Red, White & Blue, visit