BETHESDA, Md. - Board members of Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake, including Doonesbury cartoonist and Saranac Lake native Garry Trudeau, attended the retirement celebration of Army Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton at the Navy campus here on Oct. 29.
"It was a fitting tribute to General Sutton who has done so much to employ best practices in mental health care for our returning service members," Patriot Hills President Bob Ross, of St. Joseph's Addiction Treatment & Recovery Centers in Saranac Lake, said in a press release. He made the trip with Patriot Hills Executive Director Susan Waters.
Noted Vietnam veteran and former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland served as master of ceremonies for the event which highlighted Sutton's 29 years of military service. As the Army's highest-ranking psychiatrist, Sutton was instrumental in the planning and development of the recently dedicated National Intrepid Center of Excellence which addresses the medical needs of service members with combat-related traumatic brain injury and psychological health conditions.
Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake officials attend the retirement celebration of Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton (also a board member) on Oct. 29 in Maryland. From left are Patriot Hills Executive Director Susan Waters, Sutton, Doonesbury cartoonist and board member Garry Trudeau, Laurie Leitch, board President Bob Ross and Elaine Karas. Leitch and Karas recently partnered with Patriot Hills for trauma resiliency training.
(Photo — Karen Davidson)
Trudeau gave the keynote remarks before departing on a USO tour to Afghanistan. When researching post-traumatic stress disorder for his Doonesbury strip, Trudeau was referred to Sutton as a key expert in the field. In June, he brought Sutton to Saranac Lake for a soldier resiliency discussion, and she has agreed to serve on the board of Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake.
The retirement celebration wasn't strictly military issue. President and CEO of Sesame Workshop Gary Knell introduced the closing act, an original song about Sutton performed by famed puppet Elmo, who was dressed like a cowboy to honor Sutton's roots. Sesame Workshop worked closely with Sutton to develop the "Talk, Listen, Connect" initiative, which helps military families cope with the challenges of deployments, homecomings and family changes by using the popular puppets to reach youth.
"It was very clear in the way Loree Sutton was honored, that she has enriched many lives and fostered remarkable improvements in caring for service members," Waters said.
Before the celebration, Sutton met with Ross and Waters to strategize and to review the October resiliency training in Saranac Lake that taught New York Guard chaplains, social workers, veterans and others new techniques for addressing trauma.
The instruction, presented by Trauma Resource Institute, exemplifies the best-practice programs that Patriot Hills at Saranac Lake is pursuing. Sutton identified additional partnerships to broaden the scope of the initiative into a center of excellence that showcases best practices.
"Loree is a visionary who enthusiastically collaborates to achieve real outcomes," Waters said. "Her input on the Patriot Hills board will be invaluable in building our community-based model."
Patriot Hills officials observed that, as Elmo and Sutton sang the closing refrain of "Happy Trails," it seemed obvious that General Sutton would be back in the saddle soon and on to her next adventure.