America is reaching out to the veteran community. Sometimes, however, the veteran community may not always be reaching back to America, and parts of America are not reaching out. However, scarier than that, is that sometimes, as America is reaching out and so is the veteran community, but the hands just are not touching. Why do I say this?
Because last summer, our Apprentice, former Corporal, still Marine, Mark Lemke did an investigation on the number of outdoor recreation focused organizations in the United States. We know this list is far from complete, but its a great start. With these organizations, and the addition of folks like the Sierra Club working to integrate their outings programs for military families and veterans, or start specific veterans and military family outings groups, we as veterans should have far fewer excuses about what our communities are and are not doing on our behalf. And hey, ladies and gentlemen who have served, if we like what an organization is trying to do, but think it needs new leadership...be that new leadership.
Here is the list that Mark made. Have more to add to it? Leave us a note in the comments section! Download Offical MFO Org Contact List
Mark also did a great job writing a fantastic paper about military and veteran community life and why the outdoors are so important to veterans. You can check out the full paper here, Download Veterans and Military Families in America Mission Outdoors or just read the executive summary below. Agree, disagree? Let us hear about it in the comments section, just be respectful!
Veterans and Military Families in America: Mission Outdoors
Authored by Mark Lemke
"In war, there are no unwounded soldiers." -Jose Narosky
This paper is a comprehensive review of challenges that active duty military personnel, their families and veterans face due to war and how and why outdoor recreation is an effective response. Even with increased services from the Veteran Administration and services on base, active duty military and veterans suffer the side effects from issues related to Post Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury long after they leave the military and return to civilian life. An in-depth analysis discusses the problems and shows how and why experience and time in nature can increase the quality of life for the military world.
Military families also endure the hardships of battle and this has long lasting implications. Spouses and children often go through long periods of stress, anxiety and despondency. The outdoors offers a place for children and their parents to experience stress reduction and strengthen the family unit in a healthy, sustainable manner. Children are born into military families and have no say in their situation. Often boys with parents deployed show increases in disruptive behavior in the class room and girls show an increase in anxiety. Like all children in the United States, we are seeing an upward trend in obesity and diseases linked to obesity. Children spend up to eight hours in front of an electrical device outside of school. Exercise is a far better stress relief activity than video games or television. Time in the outdoors can address this health problem both mentally and physically. The Sierra Club recognizes the struggles a parent may have with their spouse at war to get their children outside. We aim, however, to help spouses, families, service members, and veterans gain the skills and confidence necessary, as do a number of other groups, to get our military and veteran community outside more consistently.
Veterans have been suffering from PTS and TBI since the Civil War, but the issue has really come to light after the Vietnam War. The suicide rate for veterans is 18 per day. Veterans also have high levels drug abuse including legal and illegal drugs and pain killers. In many cases drugs and alcohol were present at scene of suicides. This number is expected to rise in the next couple of years as more and more service members come home and cease to deeply. The United States learned their mistakes in “handling” veterans after Vietnam, but even with the new help from the VA, veterans are falling through the cracks.
Through research at the college level and intervention from non-profits, nature has the ability to save lives and increase the wellbeing of the military community and veterans. Non-profits range from adaptive sports to nature outings, with the goal of helping veterans and the military community deal with the side effects of war. This paper highlights thirty-nine organizations that reach out to the military community and veterans. Afghanistan and Iraq have been America’s longest wars and the wounded continue to come back to us. How will we answer this challenge? We will answer it by ensuring that military families and veterans experience the freedom of the land they defended, and this paper will show why this strategy is so important.