I am currently sitting in the Salt Lake City airport, as people around me are playing cards…updating social media…making business calls, I’m trying to reflect on an event I just participated in with the Wounded Warrior Project. I had the opportunity to join as staff in an event called Project Odyssey. This is an event where military vets (active and retired) participate in an experiential retreat. This retreat happens all over the U.S. In all kinds of different locations throughout the year. A goal of these retreats is to bring vets together to heal through relationships, vulnerability and experience.
I’ve always known that vets have a bond that I don’t completely understand simply because I’ve never served. What I didn’t know until this retreat is that the bonding wasn’t simply because they happened to be in the military. The bonding is deeper. The number of shared stories, similar experiences, similar hurts creates a bond that allows for instant connection. I saw a group of vets who didn’t know one another when they showed up, leaving after 4 days lifelong friends.
I gained a new, more valuable perspective for those who have served. They often come home feeling disconnected and don’t ever know how to reconnect. They come back with mental health issues that can go untreated for years. They come from a culture of having a mission back to civilian life where people often just exist. Ultimately, they often feel lost, almost as if the time they spent in the military was something that didn’t mean much.
I’ve heard people often say “thank you for your service” to vets. I’ve often wondered if people actually mean it or is it just a knee jerk reaction. I come from this retreat with a profound feeling of thankfulness for these people who did a job yes, but sacrificed, sometimes unknowingly, relationships, schooling and mental health. I look forward to meeting more of those who have served in the future.
If you are a warrior, I highly encourage you to get connected with the wounded warrior project. Get on their mailing list and go to a retreat. It could change your life. I know it did mine.