Nature & Veterans – A Healing Combo

Veterans Are Living Warriors Who Deserve Our Best

11.11.2019 – I’m not an expert on Veteran issues, but as a beneficiary of their service and sacrifice, I want to bring attention to the fact that many Veterans can use more help…and that nature can be a part of the healing journey. So…read on, get a little background, then learn about two award-winning efforts to heal Veterans using nature.

Some Troubling Facts…

The United States has over 18 million living Veterans who’ve served during at least one war- that’s over 7% of the adult population of our nation. This includes a lot of younger Veterans – most of whom served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. Of these Vets, 20% suffer from either Major Depression and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The resulting volume of services needed to care for these Vets (as well as for services to support their families) has been very difficult to meet effectively – despite the efforts of numerous health practitioners, social service providers and institutions.

Hope & Healing with Nature….

There is a growing body of work and practice that’s partnering Veterans with nature as a method for healing – especially for Vets with PTSD and other mental health challenges. I’d like to highlight just a few below:


A Combat Diver works to restore coral reefs in Florida with Force Blue

Force Blue is a brilliant nonprofit I learned about at the SH/FT Festival a few years back. Co-Founder Jim Ritterhoff gave a great presentation (including a viewing of this amazing short video) that was beautiful and uplifting. Force Blue pairs highly-skilled combat Veteran divers with exactly what they need – A Mission. Through deployments to restore coral reefs, endangered sea turtles, and to serve those in need in hurricane response areas, these Veterans find belonging and betterment.

Veteran’s Day Action: Watch the Force Blue video and consider giving your support to this fabulous effort.


Soul River, Inc. is a nonprofit that uplifts and strengthens communities by connecting inner city youth and U.S. veterans to the outdoors (I also learned about them @ SH/FT, as they also won an award that was accepted by the founder, Chad Brown). Chad expresses his vision best below…

At Soul River we connect inner city youth and US military veterans to the outdoors through incredible outdoor educational transformation experiences. By engaging U.S veterans as mentors for inner city youth, we believe that rich, powerful opportunities of healing authentically happen in the midst of Mother Nature. We believe that by connecting youth and veterans to our public lands, wild rivers and fresh waters, and beyond through genuine community, we will ultimately establish and inspire a new generation of outdoor leader ambassadors that will advocate for Mother Nature and conservation.

-Chad Brown, Soul River, Inc Founder

Veteran’s Day Action: Watch a video about the amazing work of Soul River and consider giving your support to this fabulous effort. They’ve got some sweet merch here.

I hope you’ve been inspired from the hard, creative and vital work of these two nonprofits serving brave warriors who need help. May they inspire many more…

-Dan Gardoqui, Lead with Nature Founder