On this our Independence Day Holiday weekend, it gives me great pleasure to introduce you to a really fine gentleman and a truly superb leader, “Doc” Brewster! You can call him “Colonel”, you can call him “Sir”, or you can call him “Doctor”, but he asked me to call him “Al”! So let me tell you about this interesting man that so many people have wanted me to interview due a great story he has to tell!
Al is not from here, but did arrive later in life following an interesting journey that took him all over the world in many different roles and situations, experiences that I am sure formed his very outgoing personality. Spending his earliest years in Astoria, New York, he moved to Gulf Port, Florida at the age of six. As he tells me, his pronounced “New Yawk” accent was the cause for a daily enactment of the civil war at his school, but as history shows, the “Yankees” won every time! I am certain this experience created a bit of feistiness in this lad!
Over the next few years, an education was not as important to him as there were many things going on in the world at the time. He actually dropped out of school in the 11th grade in order to go to work and begin to earn money; he did attend night school and received his GED, then joined the Marines and headed to Viet Nam with hopes of having many girls await his return from war! There was a little more to Al’s story which I will save for another time! Fortunately, he again survived this experience, but unlike many of that generation who questioned our involvement in this ugly mess, Al decided to enter community college in an effort to gain some understanding of how we became entangled in such a situation. It took him three years to gain his AA, but I think he wasn’t satisfied with the knowledge he had gained at this point. He did say in his younger days he always thought college was for “rich” kids and he never thought it was meant for him…
Determined to learn the truth, Al spent four more years in pursuit of a BA in both Psychology and American Studies from Mary Washington College in Virginia. And yet his thirst for even more learning grew and he “wised up” and earned a scholarship to study for a Graduate Degree in Clinical Social Work, earning his Master’s Degree from Norfolk State College. At some point, Al was accepted into the Air Force as a commissioned officer in their medical corps. And still this gentleman who had quit high school as a teenager had not quenched his desire for more education and training and was able to get the Air Force to send him to the University of Pittsburgh to gain his Ph.D in Social Work in 1989.
It is an amazing story, but we are only at the midpoint of this man’s very full life. It becomes even more extraordinary when I tell you this individual, who was able to overcome many challenges in his life, actually spent his childhood in orphanages and foster care. He had no father growing up, but as a teenager, a social worker named Ted Hanscom became a male role model for him. Learning this, Doc Al’s story suddenly came together for me to reveal a driving force and the inspiration of his life’s work in wanting to help others with their lives!
Continuing with this journey that finally brings Al and his family to our beautiful County, the Air Force, in its infinite wisdom, transferred Lieutenant Colonel Brewster and his family from Brooks AFB in San Antonio where he served as the Director of Family Advocacy Research to his new assignment on the faculty of the Air Force Family Medicine residency at Joint Base Andrews in 1997. Upon arrival, they began an ever expanding search for a home where they could pursue their interests in sailing and hunting. They were attracted to the natural beauty of Calvert and were impressed with the technology program at Patuxent High School that appealed to their son.
Doc Brewster soon came up with an original idea to help provide a means of caring for our many returning military who were traumatized and scarred by the their experiences in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and other areas throughout the world where they were sent to defend our freedoms. His long time experience and training with these medical challenges provided great insights into the needs of our precious veterans as they made their transition back to civilian life. He co-founded “Battle Buddies” as a means of helping these “heroes” with the many issues that surfaced. He determined one of the best methods of supporting these individuals to cope with their problems was to train volunteers, especially former military members, with the knowledge of how to help a troubled vet. Many of these folks were diagnosed with and suffered from Post Traumatic Stress [PTS]. Each recovering veteran is provided a “Buddy” who is there for him or her 24/7 whenever needed, whether it may be a panic attack or a stressful situation where they just need someone to talk to.
I know this is a very simplified explanation of Doc Brewster’s program and there is much more to it than this. But for my purposes here to acquaint you with this great man’s efforts, please know it involves a large network of volunteers including professional social workers, doctors, Subject Matter Experts [SMEs], and importantly many “Buddies” all who provide their services at no cost. To become a Buddy, there is a 35 hour training program that prepares a volunteer for this work. And, importantly, there is no other organization providing this type of support and Doctor Brewster is not provided any funds for his wonderful program! I learned just because a soldier returns with his limbs intact doesn’t mean he wasn’t wounded in battle.
Finally, I asked Al what I can do to help promote his work; he wants to learn of more veterans who would like a “Battle Buddy” in their corner and he would like to attract more volunteers with a military past or who were raised in a military family to step forward to help with these beautiful warriors. He also would encourage any person with an area of expertise and a heart for veterans to serve as a “Battle Buddy SME”. He proudly tells me one of their first recovering vets is now trained to go back and help others that suffered a similar fate.
“Doc”, “Colonel”, or “Al”, there is no doubt that your great body of work would easily represent the life efforts of three men! I am so very impressed with your life history and what you have been able to accomplish. I wished I had more space to delve deeper into your work here! Thank you for all you do for our vets! Happy Independence Day! Spiggy
To learn more about “Battle Buddies”, view a 3 minute video at www.battle-buddies.us or you may contact Dr. Brewster directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.