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“Freedom isn’t free” is a term that everyone has heard but only a few understand, and even a smaller amount have experienced.
When U.S. soldiers go off to battle, what happens when they return home? For some the transition is easy but for quite a few that are affected with PTSD and TBI it has become difficult finding a role back into civilian lives. The TOI Soldier Project, founded by Heraclio K Aguilar, is an alternate universe created to give combat veterans a safe environment to combat their PTSD symptoms. The team led by Mr. Aguilar has developed a comic book / coloring book series that is allowing soldiers to share their stories anonymously to the world.
The passion and the heart of this nonprofit company is the founder Heraclio, who is a combat veteran that has served in the Army from 2000 – 2004 as a communication specialist. During his military experience he served; during 9/11, 3 years of overseas duty, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom before beinghonorably discharged and returning home. The transition for Mr. Aguilar was not easy, in fact, in 2008 he was diagnosed with PTSD from the VA Hospital. Rejecting the diagnosis he experienced a series of rough patches including homelessness until he began to take a proactive stance in his own recovery.
Heraclio went to college where he received degrees in Business Administration, Graphic Design and Entrepreneurship. He moved from Porterville, California and into Los Angeles where he entered a residence center in Hollywood and started receiving counseling for his illness. During his counseling sessions he felt that he wanted to help his “Battle Buddies” with PTSD, so he came up with The TOI Soldier Project. Using all of the knowledge that he had learned Heraclio created a world and an avatar that would be able to share his war stories. Initially he developed a comic book series to give his family a better understanding of what Mr. Aguilar had experienced in war but the project evolved into so much more. With the help of mental wellness professionals, veteran organizations and using his vast knowledge a new series, The Tale Before Time, was finally created to be used as a therapeutic tool.
During the summer of 2015 Mr. Aguilar hired two individuals that would help him create the company’s first prototype and soon after that he began to share it with the veteran communities within the greater Los Angeles area. In one of The TOI Soldier Project’s workshops the veteran clients are introduced to the company’s newest product, a coloring book series. It is a colorless, wordless version of their comic book series which allows the client to take advantage of the universe to tell their own unique story. In short 15 minute sessions Mr. Aguilar gives a class on; how to create an outline of a script, how to create a storyboard, color pallets to show emotion and for the next hour the group of veterans will practice using their own life as the main story objective.
With each new issue developed by The TOI Soldier Project is another opportunity to encourage combat veterans to seek help. Those that have never experienced the battlefield are given a better understanding on what the modern soldier experiences out there, and when they return. Heraclio created The TOI Soldier Project in order to stimulate a healthy conversation on this and many other illnesses inflicting United States and hopes to serve as a solution beyond awareness. If you want to know more check out The TOI Soldier Project’s Facebook fan page and pick up a digital copy.