As I write this, I am on a plane back from Helena, Montana after 5 days at an all women veterans’ retreat with Veteran’s Yoga Project. I have mala beads on my wrist, lavender scented essential oils on my neck and a calm feeling. I am centered, and at peace with myself and my place in the world.
Before you write me off as a peace-loving hippie, let me assure you nothing could be further from the truth. I am a third generation Soldier from Boston, whose sarcasm only intensified with a 12 month deployment to Helmand Province and one of my fellow platoon leaders appropriately nicknamed me “No Brakes Courtney”.
However, having gone on many retreats since getting out in 2014, I am a true believer in their power and wholeheartedly believe that every veteran should go to at least one veteran retreat in their lifetime. Read on to discover why.
— If you don’t do it, neither will other veterans. Right now, despite the existence of 46,000 veteran non-profits, $180 billion in federal, state and municipal veteran resources and 10,000 corporate development programs, 50% of veterans will never use a single resource in their entire life.
All this stuff has been created specifically, and exclusively, for us, yet we’re not using it. In fact, the only consistent way that veterans are using any resources is through word of mouth.
— It works. This retreat, along with every single other one I have been on and recommend, is all evidenced-based. Pre and post surveys are taken, and then evaluated by external sources, to include psychiatrist, psychologists and other doctors to ensure that the actions taken also create impact.
Whether it’s an increase in hours slept, a decrease in anxiety or an improvement in overall life outlook, these retreats are making veterans’ lives better. Who doesn’t want that?
— So you can live. I think all veterans, to some degree, live in a sort of “half-world” after they get out. Whether you look at your time in the military as the good old days that you long to reclaim or as the experience that broke you, so many of us live in a present that is defined and dictated by our past. These retreats remind me, in the kindest and most gentle manner, that I have a present.
No matter how dark and dismal it sometimes may seem, I have a present and that is something that so many others do not get to have. For all the pain, suffering, and misery that accompanies being a veteran at times, it is a privilege that only the living few have.
— Why not? Seriously. Even if it is all sappy bullshit, who cares? What’s the worst thing that can happen? You spend a few days trying something new, getting outside your comfort zone and maybe end up smelling a bit different (in my case, probably better). You have spent far longer, doing far harder, smelling far worse. You will be fine – I promise. Nowadays, my metric of doing something I’m scared or hesitant of is, “Is anyone going to die?” If the answer is no, I will always try it-albeit with the promise to myself of never having to do it, ever again. But I will at least try, and you should too.
If they didn’t resonate you with you, that’s totally fine and I would love to hear why they didn’t. Shoot me an e-mail at Courtney@DropZoneForVeterans.com However, I ask that you keep an open mind about these opportunities and share this with at least one other veteran in your life and discover what their thoughts might be.
About Courtney Wilson
Courtney is an entrepreneur, marathoner and combat veteran. She served as the platoon leader of a 39 Soldier unit, leading 103 combat missions throughout southern Afghanistan to construct main supply routes for NATO forces. She served as the Executive Officer of a 150 Soldier unit, formulating, resourcing and synchronizing all security and construction operations for 115 combat logistical patrols.
She is Founder of DropZone for Veterans, a free, online search directory where military veterans and their families can discover and connect with private businesses and organizations that want to support them, ranging anywhere from a 13 week full-stack development bootcamp to outdoor healing retreats.