Ken Wadzinski spent a lifetime serving his country and regrets not one minute of it. In 1977, Ken began a 24-year long career in the US Marine Corps, followed by another six-year stint as a civilian contractor for the US Army in 2007. During his military service, he was stationed at multiple places here in the US: Camps Pendleton and LeJeune, Quantico, and Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii, as well as serving abroad in Puerto Rico, Japan, Baghdad Iraq and Bagram Afghanistan. Ken’s training and duties ranged far and wide as well. As a Marine, Ken was a Legal Services Specialist and later Chief, Marine Security Officer, Military Police Officer, and Game Warden. He served the US Army as a Security Analyst, a Radar Technician and Site Lead.
Along the way, Ken also educated himself as time and opportunity allowed. He started college in 1979 and completed an AA degree in Criminal Justice in 2009. From 2016-2018, he completed another AA degree, this time in General Education, and simultaneously his BS in Public Policy and Administration at St. Petersburg College. Ken’s Capstone Project for his BS was a very successful fundraiser “Fun Run” he planned and executed for Quantum Leap Farm. He says he is most proud of these accomplishments – they were hard to achieve between the demands of military service, family life, frequent relocations and health problems.
As do many service members, Ken lives with both visible and invisible wounds related to his military service. Since exiting the military in 2013, Ken describes his life as an emotional roller coaster ride. Chronic pain, depression, low self-esteem and a recent bout with cancer exacerbated his PTSD symptoms, making everyday life a struggle.
In 2017, Ken saw a Quantum Leap Farm brochure at James Haley VA Hospital and immediately requested a referral. He grew up loving horses and felt strongly that equine-assisted therapy would be beneficial for him. Initially, Ken’s physician denied him medical clearance for riding. Ken was disappointed but began attending non-mounted therapeutic sessions – horsemanship and mental health focused activities with Quantum’s licensed and certified mental health counselor, Jenna Miller. Ken was in his element. He felt more comfortable and relaxed, and quickly developed a trusting therapeutic relationship with Jenna and his equine therapists.
Over the ensuing months Ken’s health improved enough to obtain medical clearance to ride. The exercise has been good for his body, and Ken says his PTSD symptoms are much reduced through his mental health activities at the Farm. He feels like he’s a better person now — less angry and more patient with himself and others. His self-esteem has improved. He has a better and more positive outlook on life. He’s become more adaptable, flexible and has more self-control. Ken says his quality of life has changed dramatically. And he takes genuine pleasure in seeing the same things happening for other participants, too – it’s a much-needed reprieve from their everyday struggles.