Outdoor recreation is one component of a successful program to help military veterans work through post-traumatic stress. The Save A Warrior™ initiative, begun in California in 2012 by military veteran Jake Clark, provides a “war detox” experience—through a mix of counseling, meditation, equine-assisted psychotherapy, and outdoor challenge courses.
The need is great. The organization estimates that 22 warriors each day are lost to suicide.
Terry Scariot, Save A Warrior board member and officer of the Radcliff-based USA Cares, contacted the Life Adventure Center in Versailles about offering the Save A Warrior program. He said the approach, based on university research, has found success in alleviating post-traumatic stress symptoms when traditional therapies have failed.
“About 90 percent of the warriors that come to the program, it’s their last hope,” said Scariot. “And over half of those have attempted suicide. And the other half are likely to attempt suicide. So it’s serious business, but the program works, and gives them the tools to heal, and teaches them to have a purpose greater than themselves, serving others in the future.”
Of almost 400 warriors who have been through the program, only one has been lost, Scariot said.
Scariot has seen the program in Malibu, Calif., where it originated, as well as in Kansas City and Kentucky.
“So I have witnessed it personally three times and I saw sadness and despair on the first day be transformed through the week with meditation, equine therapy, just supporting each other,” he said.
The warriors take part in a ceremony of the dead where they write about all the death and dying they’ve experienced on pieces of paper, then walk a labyrinth and burn the papers in a fireplace, symbolically letting go of past griefs.
“It’s never gone, but it allows them to put that behind them and then focus on their future recovery,” Scariot said.
This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2109, which originally aired on February 27, 2016. Watch the full episode.