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05/29/2014

Recap: War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature

P5204572On May 20th, Sierra Club Outdoors, in partnership with the New York Stock Exchange, The North Face, and Keen, held War, Sports, and the Healing Power of Nature at the New York Stock Exchange Euronext. The panel was an opportunity to share the similarities and differences in life after uniform for service members, veterans, and professional athletes, and how time outdoors makes a difference.

Pulitzer Prize winner, and ESPN columnist Steve Fainaru, who hosted the panel, has covered the Iraq War as well as the concussion issue in the NFL and, along with his brother, co-authored the book League of Denial.

Harry Carson, New York Giants legend and American Football Hall of Famer; Mike Richter, Olympian, Stanley Cup Champion, and The Sierra Club Foundation board member; former NFL player and international triathlon competitor and Iron Man Don Davey; US Army veteran and military sexual trauma survivor, BriGette McCoy; Active Duty Maj. DJ Skelton, and myself (Operation Iraqi Freedom Veteran Stacy Bare) all participated on the panel.

P5204579The parallels in the experience after combat / deployment / service and athletic competition were incredible. Both veterans and athletes discussed the stigma surrounding brain injury, trauma, and admitting, that as a once strong warrior, it is hard to admit you might be depressed, damaged, or hurting.

The biggest challenge discussed however, may be that no matter the resources available, the individual veteran or athlete ultimately has to make a decision at some point that they want to keep on going. As Harry said, “[You’re] the CEO of [your] body. You have to do everything you can to do stay healthy and compensate for the loss of yourself following injury or after life of uniform.

Don Davey commented that upon taking off the uniform the last time that, “What hit me between the eyes was the loss of competitiveness, the loss of the core of who you were.”

Maj. Skelton followed up from Don that in the outdoors, “…you can redefine purpose, you can still dream, you can still aspire to be as big as life, and you’re not alone.” Mike reminded us all that in the outdoors, “…the challenge is as much or as little as you want it to be—buy you’ll never conquer [nature].”

BriGette was quick to go beyond the parallels seen between athletes and veterans to remind us that we needed to move beyond, when possible titles and brands of individuals to speak with an open dialogue about our challenges, regardless of gender or background and try and focus on those things that can bind us together and build community—like the outdoors.

P5204577Maj. Skelton and Steve reminded us that not all athletes or veterans have an injury, let alone a traumatic brain injury (TBI) pr post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and that in fact the majority of TBI, PTSD, even amputees and folks who have lost an eye are the general public, not professional athletes or veterans.

It was an incredible evening and could not have been possible without the fantastic support of so many people like Rehana Farrell at Guggenheim Investors, Duncan Niederauer at the New York Stock Exchange, Zach Iscol at Hire Purpose, Zack Bazzi, our Foundation Board members, the fantastic volunteers and participants at New York City ICO, The North Face, Keen Shoes, and of course, our panelists and moderator, and of course the 200+ individuals who came out to hear our stories.

To sum it all up, the outdoors is a benefit to all people, all the time, and as Maj Skelton closed with, “Life is hard, but the outdoors can help us experience post-traumatic growth."

For additional media from the event please click on the links below.

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