From the battlefield to the back-country, some Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are now putting their leadership skills to use in the Colorado wilderness.
They’re part of a program teaching them to become trainers for the Sierra Club.
Amanda Louise McRae spent this past weekend in the woods near Colorado Springs in Elbert County, training to become a Sierra Club leader.
“For me, the wilderness really helps me heal,” she told FOX 31 Denver. “You know, for me, being a nurse in the military, being deployed, the trauma that you see is, it`s so random, and overwhelming that you come back from experiences like that and you just really need to go somewhere where you can sort of heal from that. And for me the wilderness has always been a place where I can accomplish that.”
It's about more than just healing though. It's about helping. McRae and other veterans spent the weekend playing out emergency scenarios, like what to do if a fellow hiker gets injured. In a real-world setting, the veterans would be placed in charge of less experienced outdoors-people, for day hikes and back country outings here in Colorado.
“In the last five years, we`ve been recognizing that veterans and their families really need to get connected to the outdoors. Because the outdoors can really offer an opportunity with reconnecting with family, and oneself, and getting off base,” said Sascha Paris from the Sierra Club.
The Sierra Club has a long history of pairing up with the military, dating all the way back to the 10th Mountain Division in World War II.
They say it's a perfect fit. Veterans are natural born leaders. And the Colorado mountains are like medicine for them.
Amanda is just glad to be out here, learning how to help people once again. In the best classroom she could ever imagine.
To learn more about sierra club programs for veterans, go to our website. Http://www.sierraclub.org/military/