We are excited to announce our partnership with Wasatch Adaptive Sports and the Salt Lake City VA for 2012! Wasatch Adaptive Sports will host three mountaineering trips and one rafting trip for veterans in 2012. Times and dates are still being finalized. Check back in after you read about the program in Wasatch's own words!
As a partnership our mission is to promote healing, health and well-being among combat veterans coping with physical, cognitive and emotional difficulties. War disrupts the most basic beliefs of personal safety, trust, mastery, and sense of control. Creating venues beyond the traditional medical center setting is essential in engaging and promoting healing for some veterans. With the support of the Sierra Club, Wasatch Adaptive Sports and the George E. Whalen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center is fortunate to create outdoor healing opportunities for our local Veterans.
A central theme of our mission focuses upon promoting relationships with the outdoors that are not overly colored by the veterans' combat experiences. In a combat setting, issues of conservation have at times been an afterthought, as short-term survival took precedence (e.g. burn pits in Iraq or Agent Orange in Vietnam). Many of the combat veterans have learned to perceive their environment as a series of potential threats (i.e., trash on the side of the road being a possible hazard). This hyper-vigilant perspective, while integral in war, can follow veterans home, leading them to avoid new, unknown situations, and leaving them disconnected from nature and reluctant to venture into the outdoors.
We plan to facilitate three four-night mountaineering retreats and one four-night river rafting retreat. Below are the specific aims of the retreats:
•Redefine the meaning of survival: Combat veterans often associate survival skills and exploring the unknown with danger and as a result may respond with distress given their combat experiences. The opportunity to encounter safe meaningful challenges in the wilderness, redefine survival skills, and develop a sense of mastery could serve as a powerful corrective experience.
•Enhance trust in others: Prior histories of trauma and difficulties with military leadership can fracture sense of trust with others, which can profoundly impact relationships in traditional mental health and rehabilitation treatment settings. Veterans will learn to trust and cooperate with a diverse group of individuals through collective goal setting and group participation.
•Experience emotion: Time spent in the backcountry can serve as a moving experience that fosters a renewed sense of awe, appreciation and inspiration. Given that veterans often describe a pervasive feeling numbness and detachment, the realization that they can recapture a range of emotions is profound for many veterans.
•Acquire new knowledge as it relates to conservation and wilderness safety: New skill acquisition will be provided in an interesting, challenging manner with attention to foster learning in a format that takes into account the cognitive difficulties that some veterans face.
•Enhance leadership: Leadership and collective effort towards a shared goal are natural strengths fostered in the military. Adopting the expedition model allows for these strengths to be utilized and expanded upon.
•Increased knowledge of responsible land use and conservation: Through education by experts, mentors and each other, participants will learn and practice general principles of responsible land use. Wasatch Adaptive Sports is partnered with the U.S. Forest Service with the mutual goal of accessibility for all on public land. Participants will learn about specific community issues and the ongoing needs of their local mountains and rivers here in Utah. The activities of the expedition will tacitly and explicitly challenge previous and current beliefs about conservation with targeted discussions examining how they hope to relate with and experience nature. This is done with the goal of restoring their sense of connection and reverence for the outdoors.