Fresh air and physical activity can prove relaxing and invigorating for individuals who face physical and mental difficulties. The great outdoors may, therefore, help veterans coping with the strenuous effects of combat or the shock of returning to civilian life.
There are numerous groups and organizations around the country dedicated to ensuring that when veterans need to get out of cities and towns and experience the calming properties of nature, they will be able to make the trip. These efforts can be key elements in the healing process and steps on the path back to wellness for vets dealing with a variety of challenges.
Grand Canyon outing brings healing
As far as awe-inspiring natural sites go, the Grand Canyon tops them all. As the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently reported, Canyon Heroes is a program founded in 2012 to bring vets to the national park to experience the landmark in person. Since its beginnings, it has grown quite popular. Originally, a single veteran made the trip. This year, the party totals 24 and is set to spend seven days experiencing nature and recovering from the mental strain the guests experienced in the military and afterwards.
According to the news source, four therapists will run the event and provide direct aid to the campers. Nine of the 20 vets making the trip this year are women, which organizers said is a new high and a result of the greater number of female service members in all the armed forces. After the trip ends, the therapists will stay in contact with the veterans, studying the effects that spending a full week in the natural surroundings had on the participants' mental health and overall outlook.
A number of organizations fund Canyon Heroes. Donations cover the costs of renting the rafts and the plane tickets that get the veterans from their homes around the country to Las Vegas, where the trip begins. The founder of Canyon Heroes, Margery Hermann, told the Tribune-Review that she has seen improvement in 85-90 percent of participants since the organization began its mission four years ago.
Teamwork through mountain climbing
The Cascades also play host to healing nature outings for vets, with the rugged terrain leading to tough climbs that test individuals' mettle. The Rocky Mountain Collegian, Colorado State University's newspaper, recently focused on one of the school's graduates, Nathan Perrault, who took veterans on a mountain-climbing expedition to Mount Rainier. Perrault, himself a Marine Corps veteran, led the team over 10,000 feet up in a climb that took multiple days.
The news provider explained climbing mountains acts as a form of empowerment for vets who may have difficulties re-integrating with civilian society. Leadership and teamwork are important on the climb, and each individual makes major contributions to getting the group safely to the summit. A nonprofit group called Veterans Expeditions supports the journeys and hopes its trips help participants form strong bonds as they experience nature together. These teamwork-intensive sojourns counter the isolation vets may feel.