Looking for a way to get in a great workout? Want to get in a great PT session with your fellow vets and service members? Need to get out of the house while still practicing social distancing?
Dawn your patriotic swag, grab your pack and head to your favorite hiking spot.
This Saturday, March 28, 2020, 23rd Veteran is hosting a Virtual Ruck March that you can participate in from anywhere in the world.
The event was originally supposed to be held in Los Angeles and Minnesota as a fundraiser for 23rd Veteran. However, as we all know, the coronavirus outbreak forced mass gatherings to be canceled or postponed. Yes, even marching one arm’s distance from each other would not be a good thing.
So Mike Waldron, Marine veteran and founder and executive director of 23rd Veteran came up with a great way to still have the event and get people moving, while still keeping smart about social distancing.
“We have lost a lot as a country these past few weeks,” Waldon told We Are The Mighty. “We had to cancel all our fundraising events to help our troops, but we don’t want to give up on them. Join this free virtual event to walk side-by-side with those defending our freedom on the front line.”
The original event had participants in Iraq that included both US and Allied service members so this is also a way to march with them in solidarity. The forward deployed troops will still be participating and will be able to be seen via the event’s Facebook page.
This also brings attention to an amazing nonprofit that helps veterans overcome a lot of the mental and emotional obstacles that we face when we transition out of military service.
23rd Veteran is a program that encourages veterans to overcome their challenges by engaging in rigorous exercise, group outings and therapy in a structured, 14-week program. This program originated from Mike’s own experience as a Marine grunt. He served in the 1st Marine Division with 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines from 2000 to 2004. He was in the initial push into Iraq and upon EASing out of the Marines went to college and majored in business. He found a career managing federal buildings when he went through what a lot of us go through years after getting out. He started having panic attacks, anxiety and nightmares which were impeding his life. He initially refused to attribute it to his service in Iraq because, well, it was five years after the fact. Wouldn’t he have had issues before that?
When he got help, he learned, as many of us do, that PTS might not surface until years later. As he got help, he decided to look deeper as to why that delay occurs.
What he found was that your brain changes when experiencing a traumatic event. It makes itself remember the event and files it away. Your brain recognizes that there was a threat and you survived the threat. But the problem that many service members face is that you go from a high threat atmosphere to one that isn’t. However, your brain remembers; it’s called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor, which is a protein that affects long term memory.
When your brain sees a threat (even if it isn’t there), it remembers the traumatic event so you can remember it as a survival skill.Why Post-Traumatic Stress is Supposed to Happen
Using this knowledge, Waldron created a 14-week program to help veterans who are dealing with mental health issues.
The program starts with a one week excursion out of their town (the program is currently in four cities and growing) and puts them in nature, with just themselves as company. The point is to team build and put them in activities that will engage their bodies and brains.
After that one-week indoc, they go back home and three times a week, work out together in high intensity training. This gets the blood flowing and body moving but also engages the BDNF in your brain. Immediately afterward, the group will go and have some type of outing that will put them in a public spot and force them to face their triggers.
Starting out small and with just the group, the outing eventually moves to more public spots with civilians joining. This process of having vets engage after a high intensity workout allows them to retrain their brain to be accepting of situations instead of triggering a fight or flight reaction that comes with PTS. Vets are then given assignments for each week which help them overcome their triggers and face their PTS head on.
There are only four rules:
- No drinking
- No bitching
- No news (local news but not to take in negative)
- No war stories
Using advice from personal trainers, positive psychologists and military personnel, Waldron created the 23V Recon playbook which is the backbone for the program. The result has been a resounding success and has led Waldron and his team to seek to expand their program to other cities. Based out of Minnesota, 23V is looking to expand into Los Angeles, which one of the canceled ruck marches was supposed to raise money for.
This is where you come in.
If you want to get out of the house, raise awareness for a great cause and help 23V grow, sign up and march on Saturday. Get outside, put on your pack and take to a trail and show your support. Let others know too, but make sure if you do it together you stay a safe distance apart. Get to stepping!