Meet Ken Falke, a 21-year combat veteran of the U.S. Navy. Falke is highly respected throughout the military and civilian Bomb Disposal and Explosive Ordnance Disposal communities as an innovative thoughtful leader.
Falke is the founder and Chairman of A-T Solutions and also the founder and Chairman of the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation. Recently, Falke started Boulder Crest Retreat, a facilities and services area to help wounded warriors and their families rest and heal.
WashingtonExec recently spoke to Falke about Boulder Crest Retreat in this exclusive interview.
WashingtonExec: When did you get the idea to start Boulder Crest Retreat?
Ken Falke: My wife, Julia, and I formed the Wounded EOD Warrior Foundation in 2007. EOD stands for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (these are the brave men and women that are bomb disposal experts in the military). I am a retired US Navy EOD Technician. I have been visiting our wounded EOD warriors since the beginning of the war. Last year I took a year off to do a Masters Degree at Georgetown University. This gave me lots of time to visit the hospitals (Bethesda and Walter Reed). Unfortunately, we also had the toughest year of injuries in the EOD community. My wife and I have a guest house on our property and we had a few families of the wounded stay with us. Unfortunately, the house is too small for wheelchairs. These stays gave us the idea to take 37.5 acres of our farm and build the retreat. The retreat will be for any and all wounded warriors and their families. Our hope is that families will come for 2-7 day retreats just to get away and relax from the clinical environments they live in on a daily basis.
WashingtonExec: If you were the President what would you do to make sure that all troops receive the necessary care they deserve during war recovery?
Ken Falke: Our troops are stressed. We have been at war for 10 years and many of our troops are just worn. All of our troops need a break. The first thing I would do would be to bring them all home. Once the troops were home, I would like to see DOD concentrate on a meaningful reconstitution of our troops mental health. Estimates say that 1/3rd of our force has post traumatic stress. This is over 400,000 people in need of help. I would also like to see the VA and DOD work better together. The medical evaluation boards and the VA disability systems are broken and they just don’t seem to be getting better. I consistently hear horror stories from the families and it really bothers me. Finally, we need to figure out a way of ensuring our veterans can really get connected back to society here in the US. We need a lot of work from the Whitehouse, the Pentagon and the VA to help our communities understand our veterans and to help reintegrate our veterans and their families.
WashingtonExec: What does your retreat offer that other military support bases can’t?
Ken Falke: This is really simple. We offer a great break from the bases. Our goal is to explore all types of nonclinical and nontraditional healing methods. Most which just will never get funded through the bureaucracy. Also, remember, not all veterans or National Guard personnel get perpetual access to our military bases.
WashingtonExec: Who are your hero’s?
Ken Falke: I have never been a hero worshiper. I think the word is overused. I have many folks that I admire, Ross Perot, Jack Welch, Bob Hope, Wayne Gretzsky, Jim Collins, Thomas Friedman, Doris Buffett (Warrens Sister), and Presidents Regan, Clinton and GW Bush. All for many different reasons. However, the folks I admire most and are at the top of my hero list are our warriors – wounded, fallen and serving. Their families, wives, husbands, children and moms and dad. These folks make sacrifices that are virtually indescribable and their resiliency is something that we should all cherish and learn from.
WashingtonExec: How can the everyday American support or wounded troops and families?
Ken Falke: It’s funny. I can remember sitting in a restaurant as a young Sailor with my wife , my best friend and our new born daughter. We were telling Navy stories all through dinner. When it came time to get the bill, the waitress said it had already been paid. When I asked by whom, she told us a gentleman that just said “thanks for your service”! I probably didn’t hear that comment again until 9/11. It now seems to just roll off of American tongues. Unfortunately, not always genuine. What I do know is that not everyone likes the same things, so having a single answer for this is tough. But, at the same time, what I know most everyone does like is some recognition. When you see one of our service personnel or veterans and their families, say hi. Ask them if you can do anything to help. Say thanks, but most of all, just be sincere.