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Black Hawk County VA partners with gyms to support veterans with PTSD

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Veterans in Black Hawk County who are battling with PTSD now have a new kind of therapy available to them. The Black Hawk County VA is offering a free gym membership to veterans are clinically diagnosed with PTSD. 

Black Hawk County VA Director Kevin Dill says science has shown exercise can help veterans who are battling with PTSD. In an effort to help these veterans cope, the VA is offering free gym memberships to them at no cost.

Currently, 13 veterans are using the program. These veterans know firsthand, that PTSD is a different battle after service.

Veteran Joseph Nolte, who served as a combat engineer in the Marine Corps in Iraq, has been using a gym membership at Key West Fitness in Waterloo for the past week. 

"Ultimately it's mind over matter," said Nolte.

Step-by-step. Rep-by-rep. Nolte knows it's more than physical-it's a mental battlefield. 

"I mean there's been a point in my life where you know after I had surgery-I didn't come out of the public for months," said Nolte. "I mean I just couldn't-didn't want to deal with it."

His PTSD developed after he came back from Iraq.

"I have those days where you just grind your teeth all day and you know I try to be polite," said Nolte. "I try to be courteous to everybody. But there's some things that some people say that can rub me the wrong way or some things build up and I'm not as well to talk about it to people around me, because you know I like to be the 'strong guy."'

However, the past couple of days-stepping inside the gym, has given Nolte a new kind of therapy. 

"When you let things build up and you start grinding your teeth all day, you go to bed that night, you wake up in the morning grinding your teeth again," said Nolte. "When I come here I don't do that. I mean it gives me a chance to blow of some steam and really just let loose. Eventually just forty minutes on the treadmill-I won't even be thinking about anything going on. It'll all be gone."

Nolte hopes the solace he's found at the gym, will be one other veterans with PTSD can also find.

"The biggest enemy is ourselves when we become veterans, and transition from active duty," said Nolte. "And we neglect ourselves more than anyone else. We get so consumed with what we have to deal with and things down the road. And hear all these horror stories, that we don't take time to just step away, release a little steam and focus on the world again. Everything looks a little clearer after a good nights sleep and a workout."

Veterans have been working out at Key West Fitness, Cedar Valley Sports Plex and the Cedar Falls Rec Center.

The Black Hawk County VA still has 17 gym memberships available. VA Director Kevin Dill says veterans can go to the gyms, and the centers will contact the VA to verify credentials. 

The money for the gym memberships was raised during a bike ride event last spring, Cedar Valley Cycling for Veterans, which raised awareness about veterans with PTSD.

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