An experience I will never forget
Following a one-year tour of duty as an army machine gunner in Baghdad, Iraq, William Reis was lost. While his family and girlfriend celebrated his return, he failed to find peace.
“I got really depressed after my tour and came back with a different view on life,” says Reis, 25. “I felt quite numb and didn’t know how to relate. What made me human was gone.”
Reis is certainly not alone. Hardened by the realities of war, thousands of soldiers face mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, failed personal relationships and unemployment as they struggle to readjust to civilian life.
Outward Bound for Veterans’ mission is to help people like Reis. The unique program, first designed for Vietnam War veterans, offers challenging wilderness learning excursions focused on character, development, leadership and service.
In 2012, the program received a major boost with a $1.2 million donation from Holiday Retirement, the industry leader in independent senior living.
Home to approximately 12,000 veterans and spouses, Holiday Retirement collected the $1.2 million through a three-month fundraising campaign at each of its more than 280 U.S. communities. Holiday Retirement also matched every dollar donated.
The total donation helped cover the entire cost of an Outward Bound trip for 600 deserving veterans, including Reis, who took an eight-day dog-sledding trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota.
“Veterans are such a major part of our communities, and this was an excellent opportunity for us to give back to a newer generation of veterans in a very meaningful way,” said Mark Prince, Holiday Retirement’s executive sponsor of the Outward Bound campaign. “Providing this opportunity is the least we could do for them.”
Reis said his trip was “an experience I’ll never forget.”
“It gave me a new lease of life by opening my eyes that things can get better,” Reis said. “The program does what it says it does – it gives you a fresh start.”
Like Reis, those who’ve participated in Outward Bound trips report an increased sense of coherence and resilience, and a greater ability to deal with combat-related illnesses, pursue employment, connect with other veterans, develop self-confidence and smoothly transition back home.
Trips include backpacking, canoeing, mountaineering, rafting, rock climbing, and sailing in various locations throughout some of the country’s most stunning scenery.
“For an unemployed veteran to come home and feel depressed … to have a group that will send you dog sledding and give you a break from the stress and the chaos with guys who’ve gone through similar struggles – it was the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” Reis said. “It’s hard to explain in words what this did for me and some of my friends.”
To learn more about the Outward Bound program, visit www.outwardbound.org.