Award-winning program connects veterans in Sublette County

By Cali O'Hare, Pinedale Roundup Managing Editor,
Posted 6/13/24

PINEDALE — For the more than 1,000 veterans who call Sublette County home, the arrival of a free program called Veterans Talking to Veterans (VTTV) could help bridge the gap between community …

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Award-winning program connects veterans in Sublette County


PINEDALE — For the more than 1,000 veterans who call Sublette County home, the arrival of a free program called Veterans Talking to Veterans (VTTV) could help bridge the gap between community and connection. Sublette County now has two fully certified VTTV trauma-informed health and wellness coaches, Kris Searles and Nadia Giffen. Searles and Giffen will host regular meetings throughout the county, at St. Andrew's in the Pines Episcopal Church, 524 Pine Street in Pinedale on Wednesdays from 5:30-7 p.m., and virtually on Thursdays from 5-6:30 p.m. The idea of the group sessions is to build camaraderie among folks to help them understand that they aren’t alone in how they think and feel and to foster a stigma-free community of people to lean on as they grow through experiences and find their purpose.

Veterans Talking to Veterans was born on the day that the United States military pulled out of Afghanistan. It has since become a national award-winning coaching program that provides a safe and supportive environment where veterans can come together, share in the ancient tradition of storytelling and embark on a path of growth, healing and discovery with others who understand the challenges and triumphs associated with military service. Over Memorial Day weekend, VTTV received the Spirit of Wyoming award and previously received the Abraham Lincoln Pillars of Excellence Award for Innovation in Suicide Prevention.

Giffen and Searles graduated as certified coaches on May 25 at a ceremony hosted by the National Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois. Speakers included Gov. Mark Gordon; Henry L. Huntley Brigadier General (retired), U.S. Army Executive Director State, Local and International Engagement Office of Intergovernmental Affairs; Conrad Washington, Executive Director for the VA Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships; David Clay” Ward, Director Office of Rural Engagement, Acting Director, Office of Tribal Relations, VA Office of Intergovernmental and Public Affairs; Tim Sheppard, Executive Director Wyoming Veterans Commission; Leigh-Ann Webster, Executive Director National Board for Health and Wellness Coaches; and Dr. Julie Elledge, CEO of Mentor Agility and Founder of Veterans Talking To Veterans.

Giffen, a patrol deputy with the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office, grew up on military bases as her father served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Giffen attended Marine Officer Candidate School before obtaining her master’s degree in public health. Giffen’s VTTV group is for women who are veterans, active duty, first responders, and family or friends or veterans, military personnel and first responders. Giffen said, “As the coach, I say minimal words. I tell them a bit of a story and ask them a question about it and they’ll talk for 30 minutes to an hour from there. I love the questions that we ask because the answers provide insight into their support systems and barriers. The sessions feel like think tanks or brainstorming.”

Searles is a Special Forces Army combat veteran who worked with Tip Top Search and Rescue for 10 years and currently operates the nonprofit OVERWATCH-6. Searles explained, “The program is based around trauma-informed coaching. It’s 40 weeks of instruction and 35 hours of self-paced work, then we go out into the community with these new skills as coaches able to help like-minded people. Twenty-five percent of Wyoming’s population is a veteran or linked to one.”

Sublette County Prevention Specialist Becky Crowe said, “When I heard about Veterans Talking to Veterans, I knew it was part of what I wanted to do in the county was get more support for our first responders, those who care for others and those who have served our country and have a network of those people who help each other and support each other.”

“We’ve all had some form of trauma in our lives, some more than others, so this program is trauma-informed and helps us process that in a healthy way rather than turning to substances or other unhealthy habits,” Crowe said.

“Both of these guys are building a team,” Crowe said of Searles and Giffen and their new VTTV groups in Sublette County.

“What I really want my team to know is that everybody has each other’s back,” Searles said.

Dr. Elledge told the Roundup, “What the group coaching does is bring together people who have similar experiences and through the synergy of that connection something greater grows. When you have this happening in the group, there’s an incredible motivation to take that outside of the group and into all the different domains of your life.”

Of what attendees could expect from the group, Elledge said, “It’s entertaining. It’s engaging. It’s all based around telling stories. No, no one is going to make you tell your story. We tell you a story and you talk about the story and gain insights as you talk about within the group.”

Searles hopes the program and group will help bring the vets and first responders out of the shadows and “they start showing up to the free sessions to see if they can relate to what we do.”

Veterans may choose to drop into any of the weekly meetings.

For more information about VTTV, visit

Sublette County Prevention also maintains a Mental Health Fund for folks who need but cannot financially afford therapy. For more information, visit

Veterans Talking to Veterans, resources for veterans, Sublette County Prevention, Mentor Agility, VTTV, vets, first responders, Pinedale, Big Piney, Wyoming