All posts by Kanani Fong

Founder, WarRetreat.Org, devoted to helping with the aftermath of war through movement, breathe, and yoga. Army wife, long time mental health advocate, writer, specializing in military and veteran outreach for film and books. Projects include Restrepo, and High Ground.
Honoring The Path of The Warrior

WarRetreat asks U.S. Army Veteran Dyan Ferguson: “What’s Love?”


For Valentine’s Day, we asked those who serve veterans after war through innovative programs, “What’s War?”

“What is LOVE? 

Love is what I feel when I take a moment to feel my breath and my sensations… to look at a bird or the clouds… to feel the sun on my skin… to smell or taste a warm cup of strong coffee… to notice people around me and to offer a smile… When I take a moment to really pay attention to my internal world and to what is happening around me, my mind goes silent for a few seconds.  Then I feel real, deep, endless love.  And that is always followed by the bubbling up of gratitude for everything life has given me — from my family and friends and everything they bring to me life, to the fact that I live in a democracy that cares about its citizens’ well-being, to the opportunities I have had to serve others, whether in the military or a nonprofit that supports veterans… And in those moments of feeling love and gratitude, I invariably re-commit to love and generosity and service to this world we share and each of its inhabitants.” -Dyan Ferguson, U.S. Army Veteran, Co-Founder, Honoring The Path of the Warrior
Honoring The Path’s founders, Chris Fortin & Dyan Ferguson at a veterans’ retreat.

Dyan is one of the founders of the organization, “Honoring The Path of The Warrior.” They take combat veterans into the great outdoors, introducing them to white water rafting, hiking, and teaching them stress reduction through yoga and meditation. These free retreats are in Northern California. “The intent is to provide Veterans with connection, community and tools that support them in using their own strengths and experiences to find a meaningful and productive path in civilian life.”

Find out more about Honoring The Path of The Warrior!


WarRetreat Asks Team Red, White, And Blue: “What’s Love?”

Ryan Moline, far left, with the Team RWB Chicago Chapter

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked the movers and shakers of the veterans service organizations, this essential question:

“What’s Love?”

“To me, love is the foundation for all things that we feel are worth fighting for – our friends, our family, our country – and for Team RWB, it’s our way of showing love for our veterans as we believe THEY are certainly worth fighting for. Without them, love would be a little bit harder to understand and appreciate. For that, we can never thank or love them enough!”  -Ryan Moline, Team Red,White, & Blue, Chicago Chapter

Ryan is part of the dynamic Chicago chapter of the national organization, Team Red, White, & Blue. Team RWB‘s mission is to enrich the lives of America’s veterans by connecting them to their community through physical and social activities. Through RWB Chapters & Communities, the Veteran Ambassador Program, and Veteran Athletic Camps, the organization engages veterans from all backgrounds and abilities, to help them regain a sense of camaraderie and community.

Learn more about how Team RWB helps veterans!


WarRetreat Shares WILD LOVE on Valentine’s Day.

“I wanna be in the mountains, but I want to SHARE it.” -Timmy O’Neill, Paradox Sports

Timmy201Happy Valentine’s Day!  We’re sending you a ‘karmic boomerang of love.”  While we slack off on the blog now and then, it’s never far from our mind. For Valentine’s Day, we’re sharing WILD LOVE, a video on love, loss, and passion for living. 

Here’s a good question, “What’s love to you?”

“Timmy O’Neill is an outrageously fast and funny climber, a world-class slackliner and class 5+ kayaker. But more than that, he’s incredibly smart, kind and passionate about his life and the lives of others. Wild Love illustrates his dedication to helping people, to exploring and learning and his insatiable love for living this life, right now—before it’s gone.” Timmy is the co-founder of “Paradox Sports,” a leader in adaptive sports for everyone.




“What’s Love?” WarRetreat Asks U.S. Navy Veteran Carl Salazar

Carl, third from left, relaxes with participants in Expedition Balance’s veterans retreat at “Camp For All” in Texas.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we asked the movers and shakers in the veteran service community, this essential question:

“What’s Love?”

“Service. Service means everything. Service is love in action. Service is love – manifested.” -Carl Salazar, Founder, Expedition Balance

Carl is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and a combat veteran. He founded his non-profit organization, Expedition Balance, to help veterans and family members regain their footing on solid ground. Expedition Balance is committed to helping combat veterans who return home with emotional trauma regain their lives. It starts with a week in the woods and ends with veterans reconnected to their families, friends and futures.  At Camp For All, veterans relax in a structured environment, where they experience yoga, meditation, and physical activities such as hiking, horseback riding, canoeing, and an obstacle course.  In addition, Expedition Balance recently branched out to the Los Angeles area, where yoga classes are taught at various locations by Marlena Groomer.

Click To find out more about Expedition Balance.



Eric Walrabenstein

“What’s Love?” U.S. Army Veteran Eric Walrabenstein Responds

For Valentine’s Day, we asked movers and shakers in veterans’ service organizations: What’s LOVE?


“Love is, at its essence, a kind of capacity…

to be present for others.

to allow for our differences.

to endure difficulty.

to go beyond our self interest.

Love is the capacity to do all of this with an effortless grace that allows us fully and spontaneously embrace all that is.” -Eric Walrabenstein, Veteran, U.S. Army, Bootstrap Stress Management System

Eric Walrabenstein
Eric Walrabenstein, U.S. Army Veteran

Eric Walrabenstein is a nationally-recognized expert in the fields of yoga and mind/body health and the founder of Yoga Pura, one of Arizona’s largest yoga centers. As a former infantry officer in the U.S. Army, he knows first-hand of the sacrifice and dedication the members of our armed forces make every day. 
His wide-ranging experience in the military and civilian sectors, combine with his profound understanding of yoga technology and mind/body health to make him uniquely equipped to help our troops and veterans end their struggle with chronic military-related stress conditions. 
In addition to his work with BOOTSTRAP and teaching at his Arizona center, he regularly travels the nation training yoga, meditation, and mind-body health teachers from around the world. 

Developed by veterans for veterans. Get your free kit!
THE BOOTSTRAP KIT:  Developed by veterans for veterans. CLICK HERE TO GET YOUR FREE KIT!



“What’s Love?” Stacy Bare, US Army Vet Responds

Stacy (far right) stands with the Sierra Club and Veterans Expeditions atop Blackfoot Mountain in Glacier NP.

In anticipation of Valentine’s day,  we’ve asked the people from organizations that offer outdoor experiences, sports, and arts activities for veterans.  US Army Veteran Stacy Bare responds to our query:

What’s Love?

“Love is learning to believe in yourself and believing in others that there are no limits to what can be accomplished when we’re together. Love is forgiving yourself so you can forgive others. Love is what should drive us, not fear. Fear has driven me for the seven years since I came home. Fear of being homeless, fear of being an addict, fear of people learning I am weak. Fear of losing a job. Fear of not living up to the life I should live because I get to live it, not like those who I loved and lost. 

Love is the transition of fear to hope, nightmare to dream, and dream to action.
Love is the random connections of people who all believe in a better world working together.
Love is the feeling of skiing in deep powder, topping out on a big pitch, or seeing the sunset or rise on a summit.”
Stacy Bare
Stacy Bare

Stacy Bare is a dynamic leader. A U.S. Army veteran, Stacy found his way back to firm ground through outdoor sports. Stacy Bare is the director of Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, the 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year with Nick Watson and is the Winner of the 2013 OIA Inspiration Award and President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award.


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Documentary Director Michael Brown & The Power of Story


“Everything that matters is a story. Those who can tell stories will thrive. Story is the way to express the huge feelings that we hold in our hearts, the feelings that we desperately need to understand. The most extreme example I can think of is that twenty or more veterans decide to kill themselves every day – almost one every hour.  If someone listened to them, if they could tell their stories and if they thought someone was paying attention this would not be the case. “  -Director Michael Brown writing in  Cultural Weekly

Director Michael Brown is a five-time Everest climber, three-time Emmy winner, award-winning cinematographer and the founder of Serac Adventure Films. He also devotes time to teaching veterans how to tell their story through film. An advocate for veterans, Brown is the Director of the award-winning veteran’s documentary High Ground. Recently, he wrote an article about the power of story telling for veterans on the way to healing. Brown teaches a course for veterans through the Outside Adventure Film School, and recently taught a Patton Veteran’s Project “I Was There” workshop that combined storytelling with filmmaking to help find new ways to cope with military trauma.


Meet Chris Eder (USAF, Retired)

In the spring of 2013,  MSgt Chris Eder joined us as a contributor.

429636_322901001100075_1846827629_nChris-Crop-1Chris Eder is a certified Vinyasa/Hatha Interdisciplinary Yoga Instructor. His yoga journey began in 1999 after he encountered the joys of a pinched sciatic nerve, and a diagnosis of Adult ADD. A friend introduced him to yoga as an alternative to pain pills and other meds. He was hooked instantly as a student.

During a 2007 deployment to Baghdad Iraq with the Air Force, Chris began teaching a morning sunrise yoga class five days a week. Upon returning to Italy for his follow-on assignment, Chris attended Yoga Fit training and began teaching Vinyasa & Hatha inspired classes. He also taught yoga to Wounded Warriors returning from combat action as part of the Warrior Resiliency Program.

Chris is a graduate of Frog Lotus Yoga’s 200 hour teacher training, specializing in Vinyasa and Hatha Interdisciplinary classes. His classes are fun but focused. Chris has an infectious energy and mixes traditional yoga music with mainstream music. His intelligent sequencing and motivation make for an inspiring yoga experience. Chris is a 22-year Air Force veteran, still serving since August 1990. Chris retired from the Air Force in the summer of 2013, and is the founder of Mala For Vets and works actively to help veterans with stress reduction through yoga. He teaches in the Baltimore area.


From his blog:  “Yes…there are many things in my life that cause pain, but they do not define me.  This is not to say that we should not be sad, grieve, or reflect on that which pains us.  Rather, we should use these ‘things’ as a point of growth.  It is important to make honest self-assessments of who we are and where we are emotionally, spiritual, and physically.”

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Chicago: Parks Program Offers Classes To Veterans

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 5.30.38 PMThe Chicago Parks Program is offering a variety of classes for veterans to help regain a sense of camaraderie, accomplishment through adaptive sports and arts classes. Most popular, is the archery class led by SGT Donna Pratt, US Army, Retired Archery Instructor. She can adapt the sport to all levels, and claims that with “Archery, I can teach anyone to make a bullseye!”

For more information, watch this video!