By Derek Lacey / Staff Writer
An area chiropractor has been giving away free treatments. It’s not a gimmick, a promotion, or an accident, it’s the Patriot Project.
Dr. Mark Pustaver, of Pustaver Chiropractic in Matthews, has signed joined the Patriot Project, an initiative among chiropractors to give free treatment to veterans and active service personell free of charge, and to advocate for more access to and coverage of chiropractic care for military personnel.
Pustaver is currently the only North Carolina chiropractor involved in the project, which was started by Dr. Tim Novelli, a chiropractor in North Canton, Ohio.
The first goal of the project is to get chiropractic care covered by Tricare, the Department of Defense’s health care program, as well as to provide that care, get chiropractors at Forward Operating Bases overseas, and advocate for the acceptance of chiropractic care as necessary to veterans and active duty men and women.
The project began in early 2012, when a patient of Novelli’s called and told him of an “American hero” that needed his help. The hero was Staff Sergeant Dana Bowman, a U.S. Army Golden Knight, who came to Canton to visit family and friends, and had never had chiropractic care before visiting Novelli during that trip.
“To make a long story short, he had great results,” Novelli said.
After speaking with Bowman about why veterans and active military personnel weren’t receiving the chiropractic care that they needed and were entitled to, Bowman invited Novelli down to Texas for a hog hunt, an event sponsored by Bowman’s organization, Halo for Freedom, which provides support for wounded warriors as they face the challenges they encounter during their rehabilitation, reintegration and healing process.
Novelli went to Texas, treated the veterans and wounded warriors there, and as Novelli puts it, the rest is history.
Today, the Patriot Project strives to supply the chiropractic care that veterans and active military are entitled to and that is included in their benefits. Seventy chiropractors service at least one military patient each week, free of charge, and Novelli estimates that he sees 20 military patients per week.
“The number one injury in the military is not gunshot wounds or explosions or loss of limbs, its musculoskeletal injuries,” Novelli said. “Almost 100 percent of these men, whoever serve, especially in battle, experience. And there’s nothing more fitted, especially for the battlefield, than chiropractics.”
The project’s membership is spread across multiple states, but most chiropractors are located in Ohio, and Pustaver is currently the only doctor in North Carolina that is a member of the project.
Pustaver heard about the program from Novelli, who are good friends, and when Pustaver heard about the project, he was eager to get involved, saying it is only a small way that they can give back to those who have work the uniform and served our country.
Recently, Pustaver received an email from a patient, a victim of two IED attacks, injuring his back in the first and losing his left leg and part of his left arm in the second attack. In the email, he told Pustaver that as difficult as his other injuries are, the chronic back pain caused by his injuries is the thing that he struggles with most, even making hard to use his prosthetics.
“With the Patriot Project, we are hoping that every chiropractor in the country will make room in their offices to help these individuals, whether they have coverage, insurance, Tricare or not,” Pustaver said. “We need to make chiropractic care more accessible and more affordable for these incredible young men and women and our veterans too.”
Both Pustaver and Novelli say that they get more from servicing these members of the military than they give.
“The doer of the good deed gets much more in return than the receiver of the good deed and that’s been the case with us,” said Novelli. “It’s been a blessing.”
Moving forward, Dr. Novelli is trying to implement a tour of chiropractors, to volunteer in two-week stints to visit the six Forward Operating Bases in Afghanistan to give their services to the personnel there, as well as trying to get more chiropractors to join their ranks.
For more information about the Patriot Project, visit patriot-project.org.