Ellen and David Berube of Martha’s Vineyard will be the keynote speakers at the Heroes in Transition (HIT) fall gala on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Coonamessett Inn in Falmouth.
Heroes in Transition is a Cape-based organization that was founded by the parents of U.S. Marine Capt. Eric Jones after his death in 2009. The nonprofit, now in its 13th year, provides support to veterans, service members, and military families that is not readily available through other organizations. Among the programs offered are an equine therapy program, financial assistance, fishing excursions, and a canine co-pilot program.
After David Berube retired as a lieutenant colonel and chaplain for the Massachusetts Air National Guard, he and his wife attended a fall couples retreat in Yarmouth hosted by HIT.
“By that point, David had been struggling with PTSD for a little less than a year,” the release states. “He had been seeking ways for him and Ellen to live with ‘this new reality,’ David Berube said in the release. “With post-traumatic stress disorder, things can get better, but they don’t go back to what they were before completely. You regain function. You regain your life, but it’s just different.”
David Berube, who also served as a police officer with the Oak Bluffs Police Department and a pastor at the Federated Church of Martha’s Vineyard in Edgartown, currently assists HIT by helping to manage its Veterans Equine Warrior Program.
“We got involved with Heroes in Transition. I was aware of them when I was chaplain at Joint Base Cape Cod. When I was looking for a service dog, that was one of the programs they worked with, so I got in touch with them,” David told The Times. “I’d been encouraged to get involved with one of the other programs, and eventually we got involved with the couples retreats. I got involved in the Equine program. It snowballed for us.”
Snowballed in a good way.
“It was about giving back to the organization for what they’ve given to us, but also kind of discovering again that camaraderie, that clan, and that sense of belonging that is so much a part of being a military person and a military family,” David said of what HIT has meant to him.
The Mashpee-based nonprofit has played a critical role in helping his healing process.
“My willingness to speak at the gala is really on behalf of all HIT has done for us personally with their programming,” said Ellen Berube, a former elementary teacher at the Oak Bluffs School who retired last year. “I have such an appreciation for this organization.”
David agreed. “Whether people are trying to work through issues or not. [HIT] is a good opportunity to reconnect with those important parts of service that you do leave behind. The ability to walk in a room and be connected,” he said. “Regardless of what the particular terms of service was, there are commonalities. Everyone went through basic training, everyone has stories about food — to the humorous to the tragic. We all have similar experiences.”
Since HIT’s Fall Couples Retreat in 2019, Ellen and David have deepened their connection with the nonprofit by participating in several of its programs. David has attended HIT’s Veterans Equine Warrior Program, which connects service members and veterans to the healing power of horses at Alliance Equestrian Center in Sandwich. Ellen has taken part in outings for spouses, including activities like walking Grace Trail in Plymouth. The Berubes have also attended two more Couples Retreats, in 2021 and this past spring.
In April 2021, David received a service dog, Vegas, from NEADS that was sponsored by HIT.
While he was speaking to The Times on the phone, Vegas was by his side. “Vegas is doing great,” David said. “He’s been a real blessing in our lives. His constant, steady, even-keeled, calm presence makes a big difference for me.”
Individuals or groups interested in attending the Fall Gala for HIT, which is being held on Saturday, Nov. 12, 6-10 pm, can purchase tickets at HITFallGala.org. People can make a donation to the event using the same link.
HIT executive director Nicole Spencer said the Berubes serve as a reminder of why the organization’s work is so important. “This is why we are committed to supporting the entire family unit through our programs,” she said. “With David and Ellen, it’s allowed them to connect with other military couples who are facing similar challenges. It lets them know they are not alone.”