U.S. Army Veteran Marx’ legacy at Clear Path: Wellness Wing visitors ‘left smiling, had less anxiety (and) reduced their meds’

Trader Joe’s marries Australian crystallized ginger with rich dark chocolate in a convenient 12-ounce package.

For someone who has provided countless Veterans with peace and serenity over the past several years, this treat might be Char Marx’s own version of nirvana.

Marx, a registered nurse, is stepping away from her integrative medicine manager role at Clear Path for Veterans after more than six years to focus her attention on other interests.

A 1981 Army ROTC graduate at Canisius College, Marx served in the Army Nurse Corps (1981-1985) at Irwin Army Meddac in Fort Riley, Kan. She received the Army Commendation Medal, given for distinguishing herself “by heroism, meritorious achievement or meritorious service.” She then transitioned to the Army Reserve 410th Evac Hospital, serving 1985-1986 in Topeka, Kan.

At just 23 years old, she was a new first lieutenant and head nurse at a 30-plus bed adult medical/surgical ward, responsible for a staff of corpsmen, specialists and civilian RN’s, along with its bevy of patients.

In 1984, she married U.S. Army Veteran William H. Marx, DO, who currently practices at Upstate University Hospital and the VA Medical Center, both in Syracuse; he also serves as a member of Upstate College of Medicine’s VA Deans Committee.

Marx continued to work in a clinical setting until a few years later when “a relative introduced me to polarity therapy,” she said. “Once I started understanding the practice of polarity I realized it was the missing link. I could take all of my nursing skills and bring them into my polarity practice. I thought, ‘This is for me!’” She would one day introduce hundreds of Veterans to the benefits of polarity therapy.

Clear Path held its inaugural Red, White & Blue Barbecue on June 18, 2011, even though renovations to the facility were only two-thirds complete. In less than one year’s time, Marx was convinced of the benefits that Clear Path could provide to Veterans and their families and joined the organization as its second volunteer; Kate Hannon was the first to join as the assistant program director for Dogs2Vets.

She first heard of the organization in spring 2012 when her husband attended a VA staff meeting at Clear Path’s new facility in Chittenango. William met two of the co-founders, Melissa Spicer and Melinda Sorrentino, and told the pair, “You have to meet my wife, she does this ‘thing’ called Polarity Therapy,” Marx said. “I came for a tour and as we took the sidewalk around the main building I noticed prepared flower beds that were empty. I asked what they planned to do. That’s when I mentioned I belonged to a local garden club. I came back with Suburban Garden Club members and we planted five gardens.” The gardens across the Clear Path campus are courtesy of the sweat equity of the club members and donated plant materials, perennials, shrubs and flowers supplied by 14 local nurseries and landscapers.

Although her first volunteer job began outside in the gardens, she soon transitioned to offering polarity therapy on Saturdays in what are now the staff offices. Of this non-invasive healing energy practice, Marx says it “calms and sedates the central nervous system. (It is) one of the exciting new ways of offering relief for those suffering from anxiety and PTSD.”

Her role has changed over the years, from volunteer to a full-time staff position. In addition to the work in the gardens and offering polarity therapy, she joined the Wellness Committee – and later took over as chair of the committee – was asked to join Clear Path’s Board of Directors, supervised the former Clear Path Kids program, and helped build and expand what is now the Integrative Medicine program.

“The Wellness program evolved from a few practitioners to a roster of more than 80 dedicated volunteers at present. We added on Warrior Reset for Fort Drum’s TBI / PTSD Clinic, and now Resets include couples, active duty and family members,” Marx said. “The constant for the Wellness program has always been the guidance and support received from the members of the committee. We’ve been together longer than most staff have been employed at Clear Path.”

Not every Veteran was convinced of the benefits of integrative medicine prior to their session, Marx admits. “You can imagine that I ran into a lot of raised eyebrows and skepticism from people when I explained integrative medicine. (But I have numerous stories of) … visitors to the Wellness Wing who left smiling and had less anxiety, reduced their meds, reported sleeping better, had less pain, enjoyed golf again, and the list goes on,” Marx said. “And interestingly, in some cases, family members noted the change first.”

Of all the programs and events that Marx had a hand in developing, she is perhaps most proud of her work developing the foundation of the Women Proudly Served program. As a Veteran, she said it is vital that other women Veterans understand that “there is a place for them to connect and share their experiences of time in service,” she said. Although Clear Path is a “welcome home” to Veterans of all ages, genders and backgrounds, the Women Proudly Served program was created to recognize the importance of giving women dedicated programs of their own. In 2016, Gov. Andrew Cuomo recognized the work of the Women Proudly Served program through an official proclamation noting the “important contributions of the program to the women Veteran population in New York.

July 20 was her final day at Clear Path as integrative medicine manager, a role which centered on educating Veterans, active duty and family members on the benefits of holistic medicine. Gaining trust from those who have never had bodywork was the first step. “I provided an inviting, serene space that takes the ‘scary’ out of trying something new,” she said.

“I remember that first meeting with Bill and discussing polarity. I hadn’t heard about it at that point, but Char was very passionate about the benefits of the therapy, and more importantly, how it could impact our Veterans in ways they couldn’t achieve through traditional medical alone,” said Spicer, who serves as Clear Path’s President and CEO. “And she has proven to be a true asset to our organization in so many ways. She helped establish our annual Women Proudly Served Appreciation Day; she and (Social Engagement Manager) Kayleen (Spicer) hosted Stacy Pearsall’s Veterans Portrait Project at Clear Path and they brought Clear Path’s annual New York State Education Summit from concept to reality. And without Char, we likely would not have had a Wellness program, which through our partner Crouse Hospital introduced the nation’s first Specialty Certificate in Military Veteran Massage just two years ago.

“She will be missed by Veterans and our staff alike.”

Now Marx is taking a step back, a breather, to enjoy time with her family and assess her options. Looking back on her six-plus years with Clear Path she said it was the impact she was having on people’s lives that brought her the most joy at work.

“I was proud to go to work each day because I knew I was making a positive impact on someone’s quality of life. More than once I was told – in reference to polarity – ‘I’ll try anything, I just want to feel better.’ People just want to enjoy the little things, and a session gave them an opportunity to experience the possibility,” she said.

In addition to her passion for gardening, one bit of trivia that most people don’t know about Marx is that she is an accomplished seamstress. One piece of that legacy resides in the Art House, where there are several sit-upon decorative pillows created by her.

She currently resides in Jamesville with her husband. The couple has three adult children: Courtney, Whitney and David.