Thursday, June 23, 2011

Governance: Who will be able to come to Valhalla?

Valhalla is all about Soldiers and their well being. It will be a facility designed to accommodate individual Soldiers and to hold small unit gatherings. Because of the warrior emphasis on Valhalla, it is envisioned that primarily members of combat units in the Army – active duty, National Guard, Reserves and their retirees who have survived combat – would be principal users. Due to the warrior emphasis, presence of those suffering from PTSD, and other issues, Valhalla would further be designated for adults only. Procedures for selection will be established in time as the demand increases.

Initially it is thought that volunteers will constitute the initial resident population, but all must come with a recommendation from unit leaders supporting their application. A screening committee comprised of the Valhalla Board operating with recommendations from the Valhalla Governance advisory committee will make final decisions.

Why would it be necessary to enforce recommendations from leaders? 

The Valhalla Project is being established to assist combat veterans of the post-9/11 wars, primarily Iraq and Afghanistan. In the founders’ opinion sufficient government and non-profit organizations already exist to service the needs of veterans of previous wars and conflicts, while more attention must be given to relatively recent combat veterans.

Because of anticipated demand for use of Valhalla facilities, it is imperative that ground rules for use be established from the outset and strictly enforced. A sad commentary on American society is that there exist a significant number of “pretenders” who seek to exploit the reputation of combat veterans to satisfy their own physical and mental needs. These individuals have no part in this project, therefore steps need to be taken in advance to screen and qualify legitimate Soldiers for use of the facility.

Accordingly, persons seeking to use the Valhalla facility must be recommended by a senior non-commissioned officer from their military unit and their application must be approved by a commanding officer or equivalent. Failure or inability to present such an application would be met by refusal to open the facility for their use.

People being people, sometimes the mix does not work. Personality incompatibility, refusal to participate or play by rules, aberrant personalities, or unacceptable behavior all constitute reasons to remove or prohibit continued participation in Valhalla activities. For that reason a formal and informal review process will be implemented for all visitors. These include both in- and out-briefings, counseling sessions, and, if appropriate peer evaluations, reviews, and comments.

It is fundamental that visitors and users to Valhalla are aware than participation in activities is a privilege -- not a right -- and that access may be granted or withdrawn according to set rules and procedures. There will not be an “open door at all hours to all comers” policy at Valhalla; it is simply not designed to fulfill that kind of function or mission. Other institutions or facilities are open for that kind of process.

While such policies may appear harsh or unduly restrictive, Valhalla is limited in size and capabilities. It is designed for Soldiers with adjustment difficulties, those who wish a brief retreat from stress, and as a way of promoting unit cohesion and mutual support. Soldiers with severe mental issues and challenges are better suited for formal treatment by mental health professionals and Veterans Administration or similar facilities. 

In summary, Valhalla is designed to be a pleasant, refreshing, but “tough love” activity for those Soldiers with issues that a few days or weeks in a work-play environment can help correct.

Our IRS application for nonprofit status is being processed, 
yet you can still donate to help Valhalla today!


  1. I would choose not to support a respite that does not include any honorably discharged service person (soldier). Many served during the "cold war", received active fire from enemies of the U. S., and have absolutely been cut out of most benefits. Those servicemen and servicewomen who were post "9/11" have no more problems than those from before "9/11". This appears very exclusive against other soldiers.

  2. Your choice to contribute or not is yours alone and we respect your decision. If you had volunteered your name and background we could personalize this reply more effectively. However, some points you raised warrant our clarification about the mission and purpose of the Valhalla Project.

    Chris and I originally decided to embark on a very specific, highly defined mission for solid reasons: we were embedded with Army units in Iraq and Afghanistan, had relied exclusively on these Soldiers and their stories for writing of Warrior Police as well as for our personal safety downrange, and these are their stories - so all profits from the book are dedicated to the project. Because Valhalla will be partially funded by the proceeds of their stories and experiences, everyone mentioned in the book is automatically invited to spend time on the property.

    A formal applications process and screening committee for other Army post-9/11 combat Soldiers and veterans, as well as civilian workers who worked with them in the war zones, is also currently being developed and will be in place early next year.

    We made the conscious decision not to try to be all things for all veterans. Even though I am also a combat veteran myself who served in Vietnam, Central America, and Cold War vet - and my father and uncles were WWII and Korea veterans - with limited personal resources we realized we would have to be highly selective in defining those to whom we will offer services. Later, when we were joined by three additional founding board members and formally incorporated the Valhalla Project Inc., it was recognized by one and all that those who do not match the post-9/11 Army criteria might feel excluded.

    Yet to open up Valhalla even to all post-9/11 veterans of all services is a physical impossibility - we are limited in scope and funds. The idea of a facility that serves ALL military veterans would be overwhelming to a small organization. After all, we are new, growing, and trying out a largely experimental project. We are not a mandated governmental program operating with millions of dollars, we are simply ordinary citizens attempting to make a positive difference in the face of an overwhelming challenge. We had to start somewhere and this is our selected starting point. At the same time, we are dedicated to constructing a prototype that will inspire and encourage the start of similar facilities serving other military branches -- or other generations of veterans -- by anyone who wishes to take on such endeavors.

    Our stated mission is to assist some number of post-9/11 combat Soldiers and combat zone civilians with reintegration into civilian society. They are in large part overwhelmed by multiple, repetitive combat tours and are only starting to take on the challenge reintegrating back into the civilian world. Most are still of an age where they are able to make these changes successfully with assistance. We think that we can assist them in doing that with the Valhalla Project and its unique combination of rural lifestyle, agriculture, off-the-grid construction and power techniques, and comprehensive livestock programs, along with healthy outdoor recreation and relaxation.

    That is our mission and our goal and we greatly appreciate the support of the many Americans who are stepping up to help make this prototype project a success through volunteer efforts and financial contributions. We won't apologize for doing literally everything we can to accomplish this mission, however limited it may seem, while at the same time encouraging others to emulate our pilot efforts for the benefit of those who we are unable to serve at this time.

    Gordon Cucullu, President, Valhalla Project

  3. A noble concept , but I find that the fact you are limiting it to Army a bit disconcerting (20 year/11 combat tour outside the wire USAF Combat Vet Desert Storm through OEF/OIF) in that others are in just as much need and as deserving a chance to apply. I understand your focus but at least place a potential option to at least entertain one or two non-Army applications per year to avoid overlooking a true asset to the project. The second potential issue that concerns me is that by the time some realize that they have issues, they may already be separated and not able to get the SNCO/Unit commander signatures that may be hundreds/thousands of miles away from their current location or those that could vouch for them or served with them may have moved on. These are not intended to be criticisms, just concerns from enthusiastic about your project and just seeing perceived potential oversights.