Veteran suicide rates are not getting any better. There are more than 45,000 veteran and military-focused nonprofits in the United States. With this huge number, we would expect the veteran suicide numbers to be way lower. Unfortunately, we see it is not. That’s where these three nonprofits are trying to enhance the lives of veterans through outdoor and recreational therapies.
They may not be as big as the Wounded Warrior Project but are doing impactful work to ensure our veteran and military communities are supported with some outstanding outdoor activities. You will see that while their mission is similar, each provides it own unique vision to help veterans.
Here are 3 up-and-coming veteran outdoor therapy nonprofits
Imagine being on a sit-on-top kayak for three days and paddling down the Devils River in west Texas for the first time. I was invited on one of these trips. I brought another veteran with me from work, but we never met any of the other participants - 12 total - until we showed up at some remote ranch north of Del Rio, Texas. The immediate camaraderie and storytelling were refreshing and well received by everyone.
You pack up the kayaks at 5:00 a.m. and get driven to a remote entry spot on the river. The Devils River only allows a limited number of paddlers on the water. Most of the land on either side is privately owned, so you must respect the "No Trespassing" signs. Our first night we slept on “Rock Island” because of this. The name describes it completely.
I can remember paddling at one point, and hearing, “Hey, you, ok?” I snapped to and just started to laugh. I said, “Yeah man, I was just in a good zone." I felt a strong peace and connection to the water and scenery that I just lost myself in the tranquility. Now the Devils River is not for the faint of heart. While that stretch was peaceful, there are several Class II and III rapids.
The Iron Freedom Foundation (IFF) separates itself from other organizations. After completing the program, all provisions provided are the veterans to keep. I was floored when I got to keep my Diablo Paddlesports Amigo hybrid kayak.
I first heard of Two Wolf Foundation on Instagram because the Co-Founder, Brian Flynn, was wearing some multicam, Crye Precision pants, which you might know I have an addiction for. I started following them and saw they were involved with Black Rifle Coffee’s supply drop for the wildland fire fighters, EMS and police in the Northwest Montana area, all the way down to Colorado.
The Two Wolf Foundation has a mission and vision that “brings our country’s incredible warriors together to connect, serve, and grow stronger in unique landscapes.” TWF takes veterans on over-landing expeditions and supports ongoing wilderness conservation efforts on U.S. public lands. Warrior Stewardship - working as a small team, exploring and serving the U.S public lands of the West. The TWF team has some rad Toyota vehicles in their over-landing fleet to help complete these important missions.
This isn’t some Yellowstone Ranch luxury retreat, but when you see the Heroes and Horses Instagram page you can see the majestic and powerful nature the mountains and horses play in this critical program. Heroes and Horses has a theory of “we’ve done a great job of turning civilians into soldiers, but fundamentally failed at helping soldiers transition back into civilians." H&H wants to redefine the veteran’s purpose through tools other than medications and traditional psychotherapy.
In 2022 H&H had 24 students come to the Double H Ranch in Montana. H&H hopes to welcome 32 individuals in 2023 to the ranch and change the lives of those facing hardships. They are currently building volunteer cabins and an indoor arena. H&H has over 65 great horses and they play an integral part of the journey.
All three of these nonprofits strive to take the veteran on a journey to better themselves and their lives. Our veterans gave so much for this country, and we owe them the support and love to integrate back into a civilian life. Checkout these organizations to find out how to get involved.