Veterans find healing in wilderness

A horseback rider in the U.S. Army's wounded warrior sports program.

flickr, familymwr

Wild lands offer us a place for enjoyment, challenge and peace of mind, which is why veterans have found them to be ideal places for healing.

Research suggests that outdoor recreation may enhance treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While about 7-8% of Americans suffer from this disease, about 10-30% of veterans are affected.

"As a veteran who has counseled many other military vets returning from combat, I see firsthand the soul-redeeming power of the outdoors," says Scott Roney, a retired U.S. Army chaplain and a member of the Vet Voice Foundation.

"Many veterans, in fact, do need a place to decompress, and nature is the best pressure release valve. I’ve worked with our servicemen and women, and it is amazing how a hunting trip, a fishing outing or even a walk in the woods can help heal the physical and mental scars of war."

In fact the U.S. Army's Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) programs include an outdoor recreation program. The program aims to "build a sense of community, promote skill development, and provide for stress relief and enjoyment while conserving and protecting wildlife, forests, wetlands, and other natural resources."

Similarly, the Wounded Warrior Project's Project Odyssey program offers outdoor retreats to injured veterans to decrease stress and encourage connections with peers, healing professionals as well as nature.

View an inspirational video of five wounded warriors who braved Mount Denali:

We all know that wild places inspire and rejuvenate us. We must care for these places so that in our time of need they in turn can help care for us.


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