Veterans in wilderness

It’s no surprise that veterans have a long history of serving as stewards of the American outdoors, and with our public lands under pressure from development and other threats, their voices are more important than ever. Our wildlands provide an excellent place for self-centering or connecting with family and friends. This is true for people from all walks of life, but it is especially important for veterans.

Often haunted by the horrors of war and the loss of unit comraderie, many combat veterans find that extended time in the great outdoors allows a space for healing. Post-service feelings of isolation can be reduced through outdoor experiences that build comraderie or allow veterans to use their outdoor survival skills.

WWII veterans understood this decades ago when they took to camping and hiking after the war, and today Iraq and Afghanistan vets benefit from organized programs that use nature as the key element.

Even during military service, nature can be a helpful source of inspiration. Some service members say that dreams of getting back and relaxing at a favorite camping or fishing spot helped them get through the endless ups and downs of a deployment. For all of these reasons, thousands of veterans rely on our public lands to provide the setting for hope and healing.

Outdoor programs for returning veterans are critical for helping our service men and women transition from combat service. Veterans who have served in warzones often experience a profound sense of isolation after returning home. The sense of camaraderie, adventure, intense team work, and commitment to a cause larger than oneself is often replaced by mundane tasks of day-to-day life.

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