story by Jamie Smith with submitted photo, special to The City Wire
Veterans from the Natural State area who suffered psychological or physical injury in the Afghanistan or Iraqi wars will soon have a new chance to find healing.
Rivers of Recovery, a national non-profit that uses outdoor-based activities to treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression and anxiety in Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans, will soon start offering its programs in Arkansas. The program offers an array of outdoor activities including kayaking, fly-fishing and rafting. Rivers of Recovery’s programs vary across the country and the fly-fishing program being brought to Arkansas is the organization’s base model, said Amy Simon, director of program development.
“When we’re first starting out in an area we do the basic model and add more activities later if it’s successful,” Simon said.
There will be a total of six excursions in Arkansas, all in April and all on the White River. The first two are already full but spots remain for the following trips:
• April 12-15
• April 20-23
• April 23-26
• April 26-29
Simon said the trips include the outdoor activity as well as teaching veterans yoga and meditation techniques. Participants also learn other tools for managing the stress from the combat-related illnesses. The combination of outdoor activities, relaxation tools and the camaraderie provides a proven, beneficial mix.
“We’ve seen a sustained reduction of symptoms,” she said.
River of Recovery’s Arkansas expansion was welcomed by U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., who will join the veterans on one of the earlier trips.
“I’m so grateful to have Rivers of Recovery in Arkansas. This program helps injured veterans take control of their lives through empowerment, fraternity and an appreciation for the outdoors; a combination that has already changed the lives of so many veterans,” Boozman said.
Founder and Executive Director Dan Cook said he appreciates the welcome that Rivers of Recovery has received so far.
“We have spent quite a bit of time in Arkansas preparing for our trips and have been blown away by the kindness of the people of Arkansas,” Cook said. “We are appreciative of the support we have received from local businesses, individuals and state delegation. We hope to make this the first of many years of hosting our programs in the state.”
Simon said many soldiers come to the events not knowing what to expect but they all leave having had an excellent experience.
“I haven’t seen it not be a good experience,” she said.
Most of the excursions are open to anyone in the country but the Arkansas trips are focused on veterans from this state and surrounding region. The close proximity of the participants is expected to increase the bond between participants, Simon said.
Any OIF/OEF veteran interested in the trips should contact Simon at email@example.com.