Innovations in Recreational Therapy: Helping to Heal our Wounded Heroes

Innovations in Recreational Therapy: Helping to Heal our Wounded Heroes

As our soldiers return from their noble service in Afghanistan and Iraq, these heroes are facing both employment and social re-integration challenges.  The process of transitioning from a professional combat warrior to civilian employee requires both career and socialization support.

As a nation we have collectively benefited from their courage.  While we all acknowledge on some macro level a patriotic feeling of pride and appreciation, what is needed now more than this emotion is leadership.  Specifically needed is strong leadership that is focused on efficiently building out the transitional infrastructure and support systems so needed by those who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.

During the recent Robin Hood Intrepid Veteran Summit in New York City, some of the most prominent leaders from private, public and military communities came together to discuss multiple critical veteran issues. From this came a synergistic “call-to-arms” on major objectives yet to be accomplished.
Community:
  •        Coordination of fragmented support networks thru leveraging digital communication.
  •        Identification and fulfillment of any gaps in essential services (medical / education / housing / counseling)
 Employers:
  •        Training of corporations on how to best maximize through corporate sponsored training and development programs, both the strategic talents of veterans, as well as their intangible character strengths.
 Government:
  •         Increased investment in transition support (mental and physical health services).
 Our veterans need to understand that their leadership, critical thinking skills and courage are highly desirable assets needed by both small and large businesses globally.
Having endured so much however, veterans can sometimes loose connection to the transferability of their “warrior spirit” and “combat expertise”.
Signs of Hope:
 
Seeing the acute needs of veterans, U.S.  Congressman Glenn Thompson of Pennsylvania’s 5th District has called upon fellow members to support legislation supporting coverage of recreational therapy for veterans by the Medicare System.
Congressman Thompson is promoting what many sportsman know in their hearts – that recreational therapies such as hunting, fishing, skiing and multiple other varieties, can be used as excellent backdrops for helping rehabilitate and restore the physical, cognitive, social and emotional capacities of our veterans.
The Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families (SFMF) for example is a charitable organization established to provide combat veterans a chance to participate in professionally guided hunts.  Any combat veteran of the United States Armed Forces, or an immediate family member of a veteran killed in combat, is eligible to apply for hunts. Participation is not limited to those who have been wounded in battle or are suffering; any combat veteran may apply.
Locally here in Idaho, there are fantastic organizations that take advantage of our central Idaho location as a sportsman’s paradise, offering veterans healing through the outdoors and a range of sporting activities.
A program of Idaho’s Sun Valley Adaptive Sports, Higher Ground  is combining sports, family and coping therapies to restore and rehabilitate men and women of the armed forces severely wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
These completely free, needs-based “camps” have the power to inspire hope, renew spirits, and restore independence. They’re also personalized, centered on individual dreams, aspirations, and goals.
Fly fishing is a favorite activity sponsored by Higher Ground. Perhaps it’s the calm, solitude and oneness with nature that resonates for the veterans.  Also supported are activities such as skeet shooting, kayaking, river rafting, as well as a gamut of winter sports available in Sun Valley, Idaho.
I know this organization well and have seen first-hand the commitment of the Higher Ground staff and how these veterans, most of whom have suffered traumatic injury, embrace the opportunity to learn new outdoor skills.  It is not necessary for these wounded warriors to master an activity on their first outing, but what it does do is re-awakens that sense of challenge and ability which traumatic injury may have only temporarily disabled.
“It was the best rehabilitative experience ever! …SVAS epitomizes the saying, no warrior left behind.’”    – Thomas Green, Army (paraplegic)  
Whether at the congressional level or the most basic local level, we all need to take a sincere look at our level of gratitude.  What actions have we taken in appreciation for this gallant service?
Our freedom came with a price, paid by others, who ask for nothing of true sacrifice in return for their patriotism.  I ask not only of all of us collectively, but more precisely, I ask of us as an individual, take it upon yourself to find a point of contribution, whether it be thru volunteering or thru legislative support, or thru financial support.
Endure a little personal pain, a little financial hardship, a little lack of sleep or extension of effort beyond your daily level of comfort. Most likely no matter how much each of us gives, it will pale in comparison as to the priceless value paid by these heroes.
Copyright Bulls & Beavers May 2012
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