Study Shows Team Building Facilitates Veterans with Acclimating to Civilian Life

Joe DeRing, Founder and President of Empower Adventure, discusses how team activities like zip lining can help veterans get reacclimated into civilian life.

After the shock and horror experienced on the battlefield, many veterans return home with intrusive memories or flashbacks, feelings of hypervigilance, negative changes to beliefs or feelings, and a desire to avoid situations that trigger memories of a traumatic wartime event.1,2 These are symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD. Between 11-20% of veterans who served in Operations Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Enduring Freedom (OEF) suffer from PTSD.3 As 60% of men and 50% of women experience some kind of trauma in their lifetime, it is not surprising that about 8 million U.S. adults have PTSD during a given year.3 Aside from PTSD, many soldiers returning from the front lines have a hard time with commonplace emotional connections, making it hard for them to connect with friends and family members the way they did prior to deployment. Normal every day interactions and small talk is often difficult for veterans until they find a way to overcome the emotional barriers created by combat.

“When soldiers are deployed, their reality changes,” says Joe DeRing, Founder and President of Empower Adventures. “They become instruments of war and are expected to perform and behave in ways that are otherwise unimaginable. This reality changes you emotionally and, after 10, 12 or 14 months away, can make one lose sight of who they were prior to deployment. This is painful to deal with upon returning home and takes patience and understanding on behalf of loved ones to help the service member overcome these challenges.”

Because of the emotional stress induced by combat, soldiers – with or without PTSD – often have difficulty reintegrating to civilian life: a Pew Research study found that 44% of post-911 war veteran struggled to readjust to civilian life.4 Meeting everyday needs that were once taken care of by the military, like preparing meals and earning money, can cause culture shock and stress.4

To re-acclimate to civilian life and reconnect with loved ones, experts recommend engaging in military-like activities with friends and family, or former vets.4 The programs…

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