I recently read at the LitQuake's event for veteran writers, as part of LitCrawl, and was touched by my fellow writer's story. Like many other veterans who have become writers, he has seen a big change in his life because of writing. It was what helped him transition into the civilian world and cope with his post-traumatic stress disorder.
But writing isn't the only way. Veterans find many forms of art, therapy or other means of helping them in the transition and even dealing with PTSD. Below are three such programs that assist in the transition process.
Riding Horses into the Civilian World
Some veterans are looking to therapeutic horseback riding to help with their transition. Merriam Mashatt, a teacher at the Back in the Saddle (BITS) program at Lift Me Up! (LMU), had the following to say:
"Our BITS riders learn that horses are remarkably kind, honest and compassionate animals. The time they spend building a relationship with a horse is so healing, because our participants learn to trust these amazing animals and vice versa. One of our vets said it was truly the first time she learned to trust since returning home from Iraq."
Therapeutic horseback riding is a great example of equine therapy for veterans and active-duty military. BITS sessions assist veterans coping with a variety of conditions, including traumatic brain injuries, depression and post-traumatic stress.
The program also offers opportunities for family members to join in during special events. These service members are provided the opportunity to experience the healing power of horses in a safe, supportive environment.
Connecting with horses in this way promotes physical strength, such as building core muscles and improving balance, as well as promoting a general sense of mental well-being and calmness.
Lift Me Up! is located in Great Falls, Virginia, and has been serving the community for more than 40 years. All BITS services are offered at no charge to qualified participants due to generous donations from the local community. A limited number of spaces are open for new riders.
Transition Through Comedy and the Arts
The Armed Services Arts Partnership is a wonderful example of an organization helping veterans transition through the arts. Their mission is to "empower veterans, service members and military family members to find a voice and thrive in their communities through arts classes and performances."
They aim to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life by offering courses, the opportunity to perform and through alumni support. A recent performance was even held at the White House. Armed Services Arts Partnership founder Sam Pressler shared his thoughts on the organization and why it helps veterans:
"When I was in high school, I lost a close family member to suicide. Comedy, humor and laughter helped me and my family cope, overcome and even grow following this trauma. Today, ASAP is using artistic outlets to help veterans and their families come home to a community, express themselves and thrive.
"Community and expression is at the core of all that we do, and the beauty of our programs is that they are not prescriptive. If your goal is purely focused on learning a new skill, we can be of support. If you want to form bonds with fellow veterans and military family members, our classes and workshops provide a welcoming environment to do so.
If you are asking yourself, 'What's next,' or, 'What is my new mission,' you will have the opportunity to explore whether the arts can offer that new sense of purpose. The transition process is difficult and does not happen overnight. That is why we are committed to offering consistent outlets for expression among a safe and supportive community of veterans and military family members."
Making a Change Through Scuba Diving
Force Blue is a nonprofit that teaches former Special Operations warriors how to translate their training and teamwork skills into transplanting corals and rebuilding reefs. This is a way that veterans can transition and help themselves while helping the environment.
"Force Blue gives former combat divers a chance to experience and explore one of the most critically endangered ecosystems on the planet. And to utilize their skills to aid in that ecosystem's protection," executive director Jim Ritterhoff said.
Many veterans are improving the ease of their transitions through creative writing, horseback riding, performing, diving and many other programs. See the programs above, or consider the article that Military.com recently featured on the Writers Guild Foundation, which offers a Veterans Writing Workshop.
Don't try to get through the transition on your own when there are so many people who care and so many great programs. Go out there and find what works for you.
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