North Carolina Outward Bound School’s service to military veterans has grown exponentially in recent years. There are more than 2.3 million veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars alone. Many of them come home and struggle with unemployment, drug or alcohol abuse, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the everyday issues of re-adjusting to civilian life.
For four years, NCOBS has delivered wilderness expeditions specifically designed to help veterans with these vital transitions. Drawing on the benefits of teamwork, challenge, friendship and the natural world, Outward Bound helps these veterans make strides toward healing.
“My sister, also a vet, went on a sailing course a few years ago when she left the Air Force,” said Sarah Mutter, a recent NCOBS veteran’s program participant, in her personal blog. “When I told her I was struggling with my own separation, twiddling my thumbs and not knowing what to do, she immediately sent me to the Outward Bound website.”
Nearly 20 percent of veterans returning from service have PTSD and of those only 50 percent seek treatment. Veterans who go on an Outward Bound course not only appreciate the time they spend with their fellow veterans, but they also enjoy the chance to decompress and look at their lives through a new lens as well.
“Most veterans don’t want to go to ‘mental health’ and talk to military psychologists, it may be embarrassing or awkward,” said Mutter. “Outward Bound is able to offer a different type of therapy. Something that you can look back on and not only say ‘I needed that time with nature to reflect,’ but ‘this was the opportunity of a lifetime and exactly what I needed in my life.’ That brief life pause was…perfect.”
While the Outward Bound Veterans Program is not therapy per se, the wilderness aspect, the professional facilitation of the instructors, and the opportunity for the veterans to be open about their experiences to an audience of fellow vets who understand those experiences and struggles can be very therapeutic.
“These courses give some participants the badly needed perspective they crave to process their experience and maybe even figure out what they need to do next,” says Matt Rosky, the Veterans and Service Members Program Manager for NCOBS. “The program lets them get back the camaraderie of a tight-knit group that will watch their backs. It gives them something that non-veteran family and friends (and especially the average civilian) can’t provide. The program also lets them know that there are people out there who respect, honor and value their sacrifice.”
With more and more men and women coming back from active military service, programs like NCOBS’ Veteran Courses are integral in transitioning them back into civilian life. Through generous funding and individual donations, North Carolina Outward Bound School is able to offer this tremendous one-of-a-kind opportunity for adventure, challenge and self-discovery at no cost to veterans. If you would like to contribute to the success of this program by helping NCOBS serve those who have served, please click here to make a donation.