According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, recreational therapy can provide additional coping mechanisms related to stress and intense emotions by lowering levels of anxiety, providing social opportunities, and creating a sense of community. It is said that cohesion and engagement are important factors for healing and integrating among veterans. Some, like Link Up Vets president and founder Michael Aaron, have an acute understanding of this and strive to share the message with others.
The mission statement of Link Up Vets recognizes the importance of outdoor activities. It reads in part, “Link Up Vets is dedicated to the future success and wellness of our nation’s veterans. Through the use of the outdoors and community outreach, we create stress-free environments to connect like-minded brothers and sisters in arms.”
“To a good group of veterans, the outdoors is very important. It’s called recreational therapy,” said Aaron.
Link Up Vets provides a variety of outdoor activities including shooting, hiking, hunting, fishing, golf, and camping. They put on one or two events a month, including two different types of events: veterans-only events; and family events, where veterans can bring along their friends and family. The veterans-only events usually bring around 10 to 15 people, and the family events draw around 20 to 25 people.
Aaron explained that it is important for veterans to interact with each other and be able to enjoy themselves outdoors. Link Up Vets also tries to have a wide variety of activities in order to attract as many people as possible.
“We have a climb of Mt. Bailey coming up next. We also have our annual golf tournament next month. In August or September we will be going on two deep-sea fishing trips, an Alaskan fishing trip, and we will be going bungee jumping,” said Aaron.
The climb of Mt. Bailey will be the third mountain the group has climbed. It will take place on the morning of June 23, though the group will be at the Diamond Lake Campground from the 22 through the 24.
The golf tournament, so far one of the most popular events, will be the organization’s fourth. Last year there were 37 teams made up of four golfers each for a total of 148 people playing, as well as numerous businesses and sponsors taking part in other ways besides playing. This year’s tournament will take place on July 29 at Mallard Creek Golf Club.
The group also completed the Barrel to Keg Run, which was a 79-mile relay run from Philomath to Newport. Five veterans and two advocates completed the run, which took around 10 hours.
In addition to the larger events, members of Link Up Vets will also take part in other smaller events outdoors. They will do yard work for disabled veterans, homeless veteran outreach, military fort and camp cleanups, and cemetery cleanups.
Aaron explained that something special happens when veterans get together in the outdoors. “The world of outdoor adventure creates a bond that cannot be found anywhere else,” said Aaron. While the outdoors can be an escape for everyone, it is of particular importance for veterans. If you or someone you know is a veteran looking for activities or people to relate to, check out Link Up Vets.
“Connecting with other veterans and the outdoors gives peace to those who may be dealing with chaos going on in their minds. It creates a sense of grounding, which is mindfully controlling what’s going on inside,” said Aaron.
Check out linkupvets.org/ for more info and a list of events and dates.
By Jonah Anderson