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UPPER MARLBORO, Md., July 10, 2017 — Cari DeSantis, President & CEO of Melwood, announced that David Blackledge has been promoted to Executive Vice President of Melwood Veterans Services, LLC. Blackledge is a retired Army Brigadier General with 37 years of military service. He initially joined Melwood in January as Program Director of Operation: Tohidu®, a retreat program for veterans and active duty service members struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSd) or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI).
Drawing from his experience in the military and as a faculty member for the Defense Centers of Excellence for Traumatic Brain Injury and Psychological Health, Blackledge enhanced Melwood’s fledgling Operation: Tohidu® program, making it more accessible, more comfortable and, most importantly, more impactful for today’s veterans. Under his leadership, Operation: Tohidu® added specialized retreats, including one specifically for female veterans struggling with military sexual trauma, and a couples retreat that focuses not only on the veteran, but also on training and support for spouses or caregivers to help families cope with the stresses of service-related trauma.
“Since our humble beginnings in 1963, Melwood has been a leader in providing innovative services that expand possibilities for people with differing abilities. In today’s world, it makes sense for us to dedicate some of that expertise to serving veterans living with service-related traumas and injuries,” said DeSantis. “We’re fortunate to have someone with Dave’s level of skill, experience, compassion, and leadership driving this initiative.”
In his new role, Blackledge will be responsible for building an array of programs and services within Melwood Veterans Services, LLC to include not only the existing Operation: Tohidu® program, but also new services such as job development and placement services, job training, and advocacy around support for veterans and active duty military personnel struggling with the impact of deployment on their personal reintegration.
“For me, this is not a job, but a way of life, I know what it’s like to experience service-related trauma,” said Blackledge, who was wounded twice during successive combat tours in Iraq, making him intimately familiar with the effects of post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.
“The issues that many veterans face are extraordinarily complex. I’m in a unique position to create programs and services that may help my fellow veterans cope with stressors, secure employment or simply reunite with their families and friends.”
Blackledge earned his MBA from the University of Wisconsin following an undergraduate degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point. His military awards include four Legions of Merit, given for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding service and achievement; five Bronze Star medals, awarded for heroic service or meritorious achievement in a combat zone; and two Purple Heart medals, awarded for wounds sustained in combat.
Melwood is a nonprofit organization that advocates for and empowers people of differing abilities to transform their own lives through unique opportunities to work and play in the community. Melwood envisions a world where people with differing abilities are fully included. Using an innovative and effective social entrepreneurial model, Melwood offers job training, employment, life skill improvement, community support, and recreation opportunities to more than 2,150 people each year in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and the State of Maryland. Melwood operates a training program graduating approximately 100 workers with differing abilities each year and employs more than 1,400 workers, including over 800 with differing abilities. For more information visit www.Melwood.org.
About Melwood Veterans Services:
Melwood Veterans Services LLC (MVS) is a subsidiary of Melwood dedicated to empowering veterans and active duty military personnel struggling with service-related trauma and injuries to transform their own lives through unique opportunities that support reintegration, work and recreational activities. MVS was built on the success of Melwood’s initial veterans’ program Operation: Tohidu®, a retreat program designed for veterans and active duty service men and women who are experiencing post-traumatic stress, anxiety, depression, traumatic brain injury, substance abuse, and other challenges related to service-related trauma. “Tohidu” is a Cherokee word meaning peace of mind, body, and spirit. For more information visit www.OperationTohidu.org.