We have a really great Motivation Monday story to share with you all by a combat veteran Jason aka @warriortraverse, who shares with us how hiking helped him with his battle scars. Jason will also be joining the 52 Hike Challenge team to keep you motivated in your own life changing journey through hiking - give him a warm welcome and enjoy his story!
The Hike That Saved Me
There comes a time in every person’s life when they’re put to the test. When they’re forced to dig down deep into parts of them that they didn’t know existed. It is at this very moment when they have to make a decision as to accept the challenge or allow it to eat at them for the rest of their days.
I am no different.
As a combat Veteran, I found it difficult to reintegrate back into society, to find acceptance in a world that I thought I knew, and to build relationships in hopes to find the same camaraderie I once shared with others in the military. These struggles left me confused, angry, depressed, and feeling lost. Often times during a deployment, soldiers share stories of their hometown and of memories to lighten the stress that comes along with being in combat. From these stories, images are embedded in our minds of a beautiful and wonderful place that we await anxiously to return to someday. Sometimes upon returning home and these images are quickly polluted by reality.
It was difficult for me to accept that the world kept moving while I was overseas.
I returned home only to find new buildings that had replaced old hangouts, new people who had made friends with those I left behind, and to an America that didn’t seem like the America I left behind years before. I had never felt so alienated in my life. I needed to sort through these emotions. I needed to channel my anxiety and this anger somehow. I felt weak and I needed to find my strength again. I felt unaccepted and misunderstood. These are the things the military doesn’t teach us how to deal with. These are the battles they don’t train us win.
The outdoors saved me.
After carrying a rucksack on my back for so many years, sleeping in the cold and the rain, and walking around in the woods for years; I never thought I’d return back to it. I decided to take a drive one day and I found myself Garner State Park in Concan, Texas, walking along the beautiful Frio River. I found myself sitting there on the riverbank watching the water pass by, the wind rustling through the trees, and answers to my questions just started to come to me. While I was sitting there, more and more clarity filled my heart and I began to get answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had.
I ventured off onto a nearby trail with my day-pack on feeling at peace with myself and with my current situation. Even though I had done some backpacking while living in Germany, I was a solider then and things didn’t come to me in the same manner as they were that day. I began to appreciate adaptiveness and realized that I am not much different than any of the trees that I was passing. I am unique, I have my flaws, and I also have the ability to stand tall side by side with so many others. I realized that it wasn’t my surroundings that were making me feel alienated, but in fact, it was me alienating myself from my surroundings.
I realized that day on my hike that it was time to change.
I am forever grateful that I decided to take that turn off of I-10 that day and make my way to that park. I was lost in life up until then. I realized that day my worth and how important it was to shed the bitterness. I wasn’t doing myself any favors by continuing down this path of self-destruction. Had I not turned off of the highway that day and continued on with my original plan, I would not be here today to write this. I woke up that morning wanting to rid myself of my misery and end my life. Since then, I carry a folded flag in remembrance of those who cannot join me today on my journeys and as a reminder of how important my own life is.
It’s amazing how one hike can make someone feel alive again. Literally. - Hashtag (Jason's trail name)