Helping Veterans "Walk Off" Their Combat Experience

When Michelle Revoir left the Air Force after 11 years of active duty as a combat cameraman, she was looking for a way to transition back to civilian life—and a long hike like the Appalachian Trail seemed like the right idea, she says. That’s how she found Warrior Expeditions, an organization that supports veterans on expeditions—like three- to six-month thru-hikes—to help them “walk off” their combat experiences.

Three years after hiking the AT with Warrior Expeditions, Michelle is now on board as director of development, helping to make the experience she had available to more veterans. “We’re looking for people who want to get back into society,” she explains. “People can actually regain their faith in humanity through this.”

And, by “this,” Michelle means a self-guided trek—like the AT or the Ice Age Trail, or an adaptive bike or paddle trip. “Most people assume it’s a guided expedition, but it’s really not—we support them, they call and coordinate themselves,” she says. “We supply them with gear and go out for first week of the trip, then it’s all on them. It’s all their own experience.”

The idea is that veterans can decompress and problem solve on their own—but with support. Since 2013, Warrior Expeditions has partnered with psychologists Dr. Shauna Joye (Air Force veteran) and Dr. Zachary Dietrich (Marine Corps veteran), who have been tracking veterans’ progress and providing general counseling. They support expedition members with weekly messages helping them with practical guidance, like how to walk into a VA where 50 different people want to talk to you, Michelle explains.

Each year, Warrior Expeditions gets hundreds of applicants, but can only place a few dozen veterans on trips. Their biggest challenge? Gear.

“Gear is always a big struggle—as a nonprofit, you’re not dealing with a whole lot of income,” Michelle says. That’s where sponsors like Outdoor Research come in, donating gear to help make trips like Michelle’s possible for others. One way OR raises funds is through donations from its pro community. Each pro purchase made includes a donation to one of OR’s nonprofit partners—and this year, for Veterans Day, that nonprofit partner is Warrior Expeditions.

For more information on Warrior Expeditions, or to make a donation, check out their website, https://warriorexpeditions.org/.

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Photos courtesy of Warrior Expeditions.