Often times the hardest time for a combat veteran isn’t the tour of duty itself; it is the transition back into civilian life. While experiences of war tend to negatively impact a soldiers life – there are still pleasant memories intermingled. These memories being those of good friends and comradery. Knowing that a good friend is there for you no matter what you may face and surviving the experience- in a way makes one appreciative of life. It’s a simple life. In theater you protect your brothers in arms while carrying out the mission – that’s it. Civilian life can be difficult to manage after living in this manner. The soldier has to attempt to let down his guard, “act normal”, worry about bills, schedules and loved ones feelings all while trying to heal themselves. Physical injuries may be a hindrance but when coupled with the physiological injuries that they are accompanied by- it is compounded. In essence this is the struggle of a soldier.
It is this struggle that can seem insurmountable to a soldier. Completing an objective in the service is relatively black and white. In civilian life there seems to be nothing but shades of gray that the vet tries to navigate; tragically sometimes to no avail. It is common for a vet to become reclusive, put his back to a wall and stay in their house as if it were a foxhole. While this is a temporary fix for protecting the soldier’s injuries from the world it also negates the healing process.
As aforementioned, it is easy to forget the pleasant memories of brotherhood that are intermingled with the memories that caused the injuries. It is easier to forget that there are wonderful people in the world who respect and or share the struggles of the soldier and wish to help. I met these very people; the friends and members of the Arizona Elk Society (AES). Hunting forms a fundamental part of our DNA as it has evolved through our ancestry. Being in nature is crucial for the human soul. It is this crucial part of the human soul that the soldier needs to heal and become re-attuned with. Sharing in this experience with the members and friends of the AES brought back the good memories of brotherhood and made my trip a blessing which provided true healing unto my soul. I would especially like to thank the volunteers and the tag donor who made this trip possible.