Where War Lives

Dick Durrance was raised in Aspen, worked for decades as a professional photographer, and is reopening his photo files on images he shot as a military photographer during the War in Vietnam. The three images here represent the close intensity with which Durrance chronicled the war and the soldier who fought in it. His book, “Where War Lives,” is a testament to his art and reveals the real deal as he saw it on many fronts during the war. Durrance’s slide show from this period is riveting, and he is open to taking it on the road to veterans groups, schools, communities and to anyone who can appreciate the impact his images contain. To reach him, email dick@dickdurrance.com or connect through Huts For Vets.

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.  

How a Veteran Survives Survival

How a Veteran Survives Survival
By Paul Andersen, Founder and Exec. Dir. Huts For Vets
(from his Aspen Times newspaper column Monday August 29, 2016)

Most US soldiers today don’t die as casualties during war; they die afterwards, as veterans, from despair, helplessness and alienation.

Navigating their way back into the civilian world is a perilous journey. The mythical Odysseus described this well in his ten-year journey home from the killing fields of Troy.

Sebastian Junger writes: “The American military now has the highest PTSD rate in its history… American combat deaths have dropped steadily while trauma and disability claims have continued to rise… Today’s vets claim three times the number of disabilities that Vietnam vets did.”

Junger knows what he’s talking about given his own recovery from covering a war zone in Afghanistan, where he came under fire. “The inevitable counter attack started with an hour-long rocket barrage. All we could do was curl up in our trenches and hope. I felt deranged for days afterwards, as if I’d lived through the end of the world.”

You’re a Grand Old Flag

You’re a grand old flag
By Paul Andersen, Founder and Exec. Dir. Huts For Vets
(From his Aspen Times newspaper column Monday September 12, 2016)

The American flag was presented to me last week by a team of combat veterans. I had never looked at the symbol of our nation the way I did then.

The presentation was made during the final Huts For Vets trip of our busiest summer yet, where we took over 50 veterans into the wilderness for healing opportunities at the 10th Mountain Huts of Aspen.

“Huts For Vets has truly changed my life and is making me a better father, husband and leader in my community,” said Mike Greenwood, an Iraq War veteran of the Tenth Mountain Division, who handed me the neatly folded flag.

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.

Women in the Military

Women in the Military
A Perspective from Vietnam

By Lt. Col. Janis Nark, Huts For Vets

The first military women to arrive in Vietnam were nurses. It was 1956. As the American presence in Southeast Asia grew, so too did the number of young women who served. In all, nearly 8,000 military women, and thousands more who served in the civilian sector, were there.

About 83% of us were nurses. The rest held positions in special services, supply, air traffic control, cartography, the USO, American Red Cross and many other jobs in support of our combat troops.

We were all fairly young when we volunteered to serve our country, and many of us were woefully naïve in believing our recruiters’ promises; mainly that we could be stationed anywhere in the world that we wanted, and that Vietnam was “strictly voluntary.”

Destructive love

Destructive love
By: Jose Oscar Roman – HFV Alumn

I am in a relationship of destruction and I am at peace with it.
I am not looking to escape this torture because this has become my norm.
I am in a continued nightmare from which I refuse to awaken from.

Give me pain, give me struggle my actions beg.
Give me discomfort and give me affliction my mind screams.
Give me all that is bad and all that is hate.

Silver Bird of Metal

Silver Bird of Metal
By: Jose Oscar Roman – HFV Alumn
(I wrote this while awaiting my flight to return back home from Huts for Vets.)

Here I am being kidnapped back in to the wilderness.
I await here in my ocean blue seat facing the transparent wall.
A wall that shows my aero ferry that will transport me back to the silence of chaos.
Back to the calamity that we have filled ourselves with, the chaos we call life.
A labeling that was done out of sheer deceit of what a true life entails.