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  • Writer's pictureGig Harbor Living Local

Gig Harbor Presents Rockin’ Rhythm and Blues

Local festival supports veterans By Rachel Kelly | Photo Courtesy of Permission to Start Dreaming

Gig Harbor Presents Rockin’ Rhythm and Blues

Save the date for August 13, a Saturday, for the Gig Harbor Rockin’ Rhythm and Blues Festival. Not only will the festival be featuring several rockin’ bluesy bands (the impressive list of talent is still growing) and feature several local food trucks and local craft brews, but all proceeds will benefit the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation. So not only will your Saturday be full of food, music and fun, but the money that you pay toward your ticket will benefit veterans suffering from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation is an obvious choice for the proceeds of the event to benefit, as the event's organizer is Vietnam Veteran Mike Mitchell. When Mike came home from Vietnam, he was struggling, although at that time there weren't the resources for veterans that there are today. His story is one of lifelong struggle and despair as a result of the trauma he experienced on the front lines of the U.S. infantry in Vietnam. The story of the details of his struggle are long, as anyone who’s experienced the long and destructible details of war will understand. There’s not enough space to go into it here, nor would it be possible. One can imagine, but not truly understand, the depth of that kind of pain unless they’ve also experienced it.

Suffice to say, even though Mike was struggling, he came home and attempted to integrate himself into civilian life once again. He went to work. Stayed busy. His previous experience and connections would have normally led him toward the entertainment industry, but upon coming home all he wanted was a bit of peace. That environment, the noise, people and excitement only sufficed to amp up his nerves. Mike found some semblance of relief working outdoors, with one person at a time. So, he started a professional painting business. His experience in the entertainment industry still existed, and he kept himself involved here and there; albeit, at a distance. “During a period of chaos within myself, working outside and music kept me sane,” says Mike.

However, even distanced from the temptations of the entertainment industry, Mike eventually hit bottom. And when he did, the Veteran Center was there to dig him out. “I was ready to die, but I didn’t want to. I had to stand up for myself somehow,” recalls Mike as he remembers the ordeals of what he’s been through in his life. Through the Vet Center, Mike went through seven months of outpatient therapy. This allowed him to look inward and deal with what he’d been through. As he grows older, the physical effects of what he went through as a result of exposure to agent orange continue to affect him, but the help he received from veteran resources make it so that he is able to live with the psychological effects of the war. Mike is able to live with himself—and thrive.

Mike continued to move forward in life after therapy, continuing to keep himself busy outdoors and with music. Upon losing his friend, who was a big name in the music industry, Mike and friends decided to put on a benefit concert for his family. The concert was a great success. After that, his work in the entertainment industry began to snowball. He was asked to organize various events and fundraisers, and that work has continued through the years. Mike was fully capable of making enough money through his work in painting, so all the money that came from these events went to charity. He just wanted to stay busy really, and these events doubled as something to keep him busy as well as provide a way for him to give back to the community. Previous events benefited other charities. It wasn’t until Mike met Leslie Mann that he started to organize events for Permission To Start Dreaming.

When Mike met the founder of Permission To Start Dreaming, he immediately felt a connection. Leslie lost her son to PTSD. Upon coming home from the war, he was put on a 30-day watch; upon his release, he died by suicide. Leslie founded Permission To Start Dreaming to provide a future of hope and healing to those who have served our country as veterans and first responders, so that her son's story would not be repeated. Both Mike Mitchell and Leslie Mann are two people who truly understand the effects of PTSD from both the perspective of the veteran and the family. Together, as they serve along with the board of Permission To Start Dreaming, they make an impact for their community.

On August 13, get ready to enjoy the Mo’ Betta Band, T Town Aces, Northern Rebel, HD Fusion, and Soul Posse for the benefit of the Permission To Start Dreaming Foundation. Tickets are available at Finholm’s, Harbor Barber and Kimball Coffeehouse. Check out or call Mike Mitchell at 253.548.6294 for more information.

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