Reflections from Gates Hut by Adam Stump

Photos and words by HFV alumnus Adam Stump.

Nine veterans from all branches of the military, two mentors, a psychologist and a wilderness guide sat on benches at a long, wooden table at the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association’s Harry Gates Hut June 30, set against the backdrop of the White River National Forest in the Colorado Rockies. The previous days had been filled with a variety of challenges as we read through dozens of readings and talked about our emotions.

Huts For Vets: Canyonlands April 18th-20th, 2019

By Amanda Walker

It’s not a secret that our physical and mental health are affected by our environment and the people with whom we surround ourselves. But I think that all too often, when our focus yields to the inconsequential minutiae of busyness and distraction, we forget to intentionally construct our lives in a way that heals and inspires us. Paul Andersen, Founder and Director of Huts for Vets, has created a world for veterans that is separate and other than one which typifies bustling modernity. In this engaging oasis, we veterans are able to gain insight and perspective in a way that often proves illusive, despite our best efforts in finding clarity.

After having returned from my second Huts for Vets trip a little over a week ago, I have just begun to reflect on and unearth what it is about these experiences that I find so life-altering. The full scope of the effects are still germinating; I can feel that seeds have been planted for even deeper healing and change which has yet to come.

Taking Back Your Health

You’re on patrol. It’s dark out, but a deeper dark ever experienced back home. Hours pass until the sun begins to peak over the distant mountains. Ninety pounds of gear on your back, the shoulders straps dig into and compress your traps. Your rifle ready, grip loose but firm. You didn’t sleep much; concerns about the operation and ponders of Mom and Dad flooded your brain relentlessly as you laid in your rack. A small smooth rock nestled in between the sole of your boot and the soft flesh of your foot. Each step piles on a fraction of pain. All of that doesn’t matter now. Focus on the mission keeps those thoughts of nostalgia, doubt, fantasy, pain out of your mind as you step it out. Selfishness has been stripped from you years ago – boot camp instills putting your brothers and sisters’ wellbeing before you. You move forward, the only direction to go.

HFV Suggested Reading

What we’ve discovered in our six years of leading men and women veterans and active duty service members into the wilderness is that most participants are philosophers and deep thinkers. We believe this is because military service has exposed many to deep reflections of life, death, and the meaning of existence. The level of conversation is refreshing in a modern age where most people barely look up from their screens to acknowledge those around them.

The Healing Tree

By Mike Greenwood, Tenth Mountain Division Veteran and Huts For Vets Alumnus

I find myself lying completely still in a rain storm, on my back, looking up to the sky wondering what I’m doing here and why can’t I move. A few seconds later I feel a rush come over my body as if I am falling off a building, heading directly for the concrete below me. I am stuck in this fall…

A Veteran Of The Iraq War Finds Healing, And A New Sense Of Purpose, Among America’s Wildlands

Originally posted to SierraClub.org | June 7, 2016

Garett Reppenhagen of the Vet Voice Foundation talks about America the beautiful.

BY GARETT REPPENHAGEN

We were covered in what felt like the dust and sweat of a thousand years when our sniper team stopped off at Camp Anaconda, a main supply post north of Baghdad, on our way back to the forward operating base. It was 2004, the height of the Iraq War, and we had just completed a three-day mission in the Diyala River Valley, an insurgent stronghold. Anaconda offered luxuries we didn’t have at our own small outpost—air conditioning, decent food—and my fellow soldiers and I were glad for a break from the fighting. As we waited for the chow hall to open, some of us kicked back in the massive PX, while others went for a swim at one of the base’s pools. I headed to the theater to try to forget about the war for a while.  

My Huts for Vets Experience

Life After Huts for Vets
By Erik Villaseñor

Spending three days in the wilderness surrounded by vast mountain ranges, lush forests, and running streams can do amazing things to your mind, body and soul. Mix in the camaraderie of a small group of veterans led by an organization with a passionate sense of service to help heal veterans, and you have yourself a life changing experience – one that I truly believe can help those who have experienced war, have been greeted by the Darkness, and look to acknowledge its presence in a healthy and respectful way.

By integrating a wilderness therapy program into a warrior’s return into society, you’re arming him/her with an alternative way to cleanse the warrior mind and spirit. Studies have shown, and history tells us, that Mother Nature plays a huge role in mental health. Our connection to nature is primal and deeply rooted in our psyche, playing a crucial role in our cognitive functions (re: Your Brain on Nature). This leads to the conclusion that those who have experienced combat should return to the wilderness to seek peace, solitude and meaning in their now transformed mind.