Category Archives: Wellness

Respect: Blind Veterans Kayak Yankee Jim Canyon

Our friend Steve Baskis, over on his site, Blind Endeavors, describes his recent trip down the Grand Canyon in a kayak.  Organized by Team River Runner, both the training and the trip were led by blind kayaking pioneer, military veteran Lonnie Bedwell, and his sighted guide Alex Nielson. In addition, Steve was joined by fellow blind athletes, Travis Fugate, Aaron Hale and Eric Marts

From his blog, Steve writes:YankeeJimCanyonBlind-23-300x200

In July of 2014, a friend named Lonnie Bedwell invited me to The Out of Sight Team River Runner Clinic in Emigrant, Montana. The preplanned Team River Runner trip was a wild adrenaline pumping adventure on a few of The Yellowstone Rivers white water rapids. Lonnie Bedwell, a fellow veteran who lost his vision in a hunting accident many years ago, was there to help  lead the way. Lonnie had successfully paddled the entire Grand Canyon Colorado River stretch the following year and was excited to teach myself and 3 other blind veterans how to run class 3 white water without sight. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive and anxious about this challenge, water is truly dynamic and wild at times. Navigating down a high flow river with all of its power carrying you can make you feel vulnerable and weak when you cannot see where you are going. The challenge was not impossible to overcome though. Lonnie and his Grand Canyon adventure was enough proof that a blind paddler could dance on the river and tango with blind kayakers.

To follow athlete, and blind OIF veteran Steve Baskis, please follow his website: Blind Endeavors.

Watch Lonnie Bedwell’s pioneering journey with Team River Runner as the first blind kayaker to make it down the 226 mile run through the Grand Canyon.

San Francisco: 3rd Annual Veterans Day Gathering & Fundraiser

unnamedThe deepest honor we can give veterans is to cultivate peace. For the third year in a row, in honor of Veterans Day, we invite you to come and spend the afternoon with veterans, cultivating peace from the inside out.  

Please join us for the afternoon to witness and share veterans’ individual and collective journeys back to wholeness. There will be sharing by veterans, opportunities for connection as well as time to find ways you can contribute.

You can support HPW’s programs and these veterans by bringing a friend, neighbor, colleague or family member.

Sunday, November 9th from 1-4pm
Private Dining Room, Greens Restaurant, San Francisco
Put the date on your calendar today, forward this email to some friends.  And if you’re ready, you can RSVP today!
If you didn’t have time to read our last newsletter, it’s on our website here.

With deep bows to each of you for your support and caring, and for joining us on this path.

~ The Staff of HPW
Lee Klinger Lesser, Executive and Programs Director, Cofounder
Chris Fortin, Lead Facilitator and Cofounder
Dyan Ferguson, Development and Operations Manager, US Army Veteran

Study: Meditation & Yoga found beneficial in new study

Adam Burn, a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, practices yoga techniques to help combat stress. A Stanford scholar has found that breathing-based meditation dramatically reduces PTSD in veterans. Photo: Stanford, L.A. Cicero

Who:  21 veterans were studied by researchers at Stanford University.

Method: The 21 participants met for three-hour sessions over seven days. Researchers measured eye-blink responses to loud noises, respiration rates and self-reported descriptions of participants’ PTSD symptoms. Assessments were taken at four intervals – before, during, one month later and one year after the treatment.

Why it’s important:  Because it’s proof of something that we’ve known all along. Studies can serve as a way to encourage the funding of yoga teachers and programs at VA hospitals.

Read over here:  Stanford Scholar Helps Veterans Recover From War Trauma

To find out how to do yoga in your own home, go to veteran-founded and run Bootstrap USA.

South Dakota: Pheasant Hunt for veterans with Wounded Warriors In Action

The wwiaf-logo1Wounded Warriors In Action Foundation is a veteran-founded and operated organization that offers hunting and fishing opportunities in the great outdoors. WWIA has many listings for sporting events throughout the country on their website, including the one we’ve highlighted. If you are a purple heart veteran, and would like to go to their application page.

The following is from their website.

South Dakota Pheasant Hunt — November 07 – November 10, 2014

Hunt pheasants behind Braque Francais French Pointers on opening day in South Dakota! Enjoy accommodations at the well-appointed Grand Ciel Lodge.

What do you get when you combine a great upland pheasant hunt in South Dakota with really good food and awesome accommodations?

A) sore feet
B) pants that don’t fit
C) a real Charlie Foxtrot
D) an unbelievably wonderful experience chasing a cunning bird and great memories that will last a lifetime

Find out more about WWIA and its mission by watching this short video.

OREGON: Smith Rock Climbing for Veterans (free!)

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 2.48.30 PM

A free, six day rock climbing course for veterans on 11/9/2014 – 11/14/2014.  No previous experience necessary.  Sign up on their site. Transportation to and from is not included.

From Northwest Outward Bound website:

This is a six-day rock climbing course at world-renowned Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon. Veterans will receive individual instruction and test their skills against vertical cracks, steep faces and boulders. Whether you are new to rock climbing or already have experience this course will be an opportunity to learn further skills and practice in a positive and supportive environment.

The group will set up a basecamp in a campground near Smith Rock State Park among the multicolored cliffs and spires, in order to focus on building climbing skills and techniques, and to establish a comprehensive and safe climbing foundation. You will learn about basic climbing equipment, ropes, carabineers, harnesses, knots, belaying and rappelling techniques, and most importantly, how to move across the rock face efficiently and effectively using hand and foot holds.

Personal feedback from instructors helps you progress toward your climbing goals. Our staff to student ratio averages 1:3. You’ll not only build strong climbing skills and get a great taste of Smith Rock, but you’ll get all that Outward Bound and our incredible staff have to offer as well! Students who advance in the basic skills have the opportunity to do a multi-pitch climb or a spectacular Tyrolean Traverse put the newly gained skills to the test.

You do not need to have any previous experience. We will teach you the necessary skill sets for each activity.

To The Girl On The Bus

We’re starting a new feature:  The letter you always wanted to write.

10706663_392775517537060_212893065_aThere we were, on the Fly Away Bus at the airport, waiting to begin our trip to Union Station. We just started to pull out of LAX, when you turned to face the window. I busied myself, trying not to look at you.  It was only going to be a 25 minute bus ride. This wasn’t a commitment to be a chatter box on an uneventful ride.

As the bus made its way onto the crowded freeway, it was clear you were crying behind those sunglasses. You’d pick up your phone, text, then cry again. I tried my best to not engage in your drama. Scenarios ticked off in my mind, none very original.  Were you breaking up?  Did someone die, and were you arriving too late? I kept  to myself, determined to grant you space, but your tears weren’t letting up. You were wiping them away with the back of your hand. Combined with the worst collection of heartbreak songs being piped over the bus PA system …you were breaking me up.

So I handed you a tissue. It wasn’t a gallant handkerchief, the type that would have been offered by a gentleman. No,  just a kleenex, offered to you by a Mom. I hoped you wouldn’t take offense. You didn’t. A conversation started during rush hour traffic on the freeway, and continued through the backstreets of Los Angeles. You were searching for comfort and reassurance and I, feeling the echo of an empty nest, was willing to provide it.  You’d just dropped your mother off at LAX. A three week vacation of hiking, going to the beach, and many smiles had ended. She was on her way back to Scotland.

You missed her the minute you had to get back on the bus, and now, on the ride back, the future tumbled through your mind. Would you move back? You couldn’t, really. Would she move here? She couldn’t, really. All these poignant questions loomed over you like a sad cloud.

To miss someone is a horrible thing. To miss your mother?  Ah, that’s the stuff of poetry.  So all I could tell you was that things have a way of working out. I hoped I didn’t sound so trite. But the truth is, your mother is always with you.  You’re riding on this incredible wave of love, given to you from her.  She instilled the courage in you to pick up stakes in Scotland, and move across the ocean (and then some) to the west coast. Your Mum is the reason you’ve been able to work through 2 states with one company, riding the opportunities they’ve given to you. Will you go, or will she come?  There’s no way of knowing. The answer will be revealed to you over the years. Keep building bridges, and you’ll have more choices. Eventually, you’ll know. The uncertainty of the future is something that will always be hovering just above our heads. But love hard, be present, live, grow and learn. Things will work out.

The Power of One

September is Suicide Prevention Month and we wanted to take a moment and let you know about one of the resources available. The Veterans Crisis Line is available to Veterans (and their loved ones!) via phone call, text message or online chat. The Folks at the Veterans Crisis Line are specially trained and experienced in helping Veterans of all ages and circumstances.

a2NXEze_700bIn support of Suicide Prevention Month, the Veterans Crisis Line has dedicated a section of their website to “The Power of One” and other resources and information available.

If you or someone you love displays the “signs of crisis”, please reach out to the Veterans Crisis Line, where confidential support is just one call, text, or chat away.

UTAH: Cedar Mesa Military Expedition. Happening soon!

When:  Oct 3 – 9

Follow them on Facebook at Paradox Sports, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors.
Where: Meet in Salt Lake City, travel to Cedar Mesa. Travel to SLC is the responsiblity of the participant.
Who: Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, and Paradox Sports, leaders in veteran led and organized outdoor experiences
For more info: Go to the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Website

From the Sierra Club Mission Outdoors website:

“Veterans and Service Members, join the Sierra Club Military Outdoors, the Bureau of Land Management, and Paradox Sports from OCT 3rd through the 9th in an epic cultural, spiritual, and adventurous expedition in one of the most enchanting wild places in our country. After a weekend of celebration and a traditional Navajo healing sweat lodge ceremony, our veterans will explore Grand Gulch and the other surrounding canyons of the Cedar Mesa area through a series of day and through hikes led by Sierra Club Veteran leaders and assisted by local rangers and experts who have a vast knowledge of how to live, explore, and enjoy these sacred natural and historical sites.

General Itinerary:
3 OCT: No later than noon arrive at SLC Airport and move to Cedar Mesa
4 OCTt: Trip Logistics, local historical and natural talk, celebration dinner
5 OCT: Traditional Navajo sweat lodge and welcome home ceremony
6 OCT – 8 OCT: Group 1 Day hikes from central camp, Group 2 Hike through of Grand Gulch
9 OCT: Re-consolidate and move to SLC

Travel to and from SLC is the responsibility of the participant. We will provide local lodging in SLC for those arriving on the 2nd or leaving on the 10th. All group gear and food will be provided, a light backpacking packing list will be provided upon acceptance.

If you are interested in applying for the trip, send an email with the subject line: ‘YOUR LAST NAME_FIRST NAME Cedar Mesa’ to that includes the following information:

  • Name
  • Branch of service, rank, when and where you served (or are serving)
  • Proof of service
  • Outdoor Experience (none is required) and other veteran / service member trips you’ve been on
  • Two sentences about why you want to go on the trip.
  • Where you will be coming from and if you need help getting to SLC
  • Any physical or mental concerns you might have about your participation on the trip (we will aim to make this trip 100% adaptable to your needs)

We will let everyone know about their participation no later than September 20th, 2014.”

NASHVILLE: Operation Purple Family Retreat OPEN

imagesCalling all veterans and active duty in the Nashville / Ft Campbell area. National Military Family Association is still taking registration for their upcoming Operation Purple Family Retreat October 3 – 6.  Other than getting you and your family there, it’s free.

From their site:  Coming back together after a deployment can be difficult. Operation Purple Family Retreats provide military families with the opportunity to reconnect as a family. We are using our popular ‘camp’ approach and bringing families to beautiful outdoor locations in order to provide fun family oriented activities, new memory making, and the ability to spend quality time together. Specially adapted communication activities developed by FOCUS (Families OverComing Under Stress ™) ensure families return home stronger. Families are able to connect in a “purple” environment that brings families from all ranks and services including National Guard and Reserve components together as a community. We are climbing, hiking, canoeing, bonding, eating s’mores, and more!

operation-purple-logoAbout the retreat and the camp:

Apply Now!

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan is located on the shores of Percy Priest Lake, in Nashville, Tennessee, just 20 minutes from downtown. Joe C. Davis YMCA Outdoor Center sits on 320 acres and 4 miles of shoreline. Water Activities include: swimming, Wet Willy Water slide, the Blob, sailing and many more. Land activities include: horseback riding, soccer, basketball, alpine tower, zip line, archery, arts & crafts and many more.
The camp sponsor is the wonderful USO.
Find Out More:  Visit for more information about our camp.

New Film: Fort Bliss, Your Chance To Review!

FB_Opening-DayWe need films. They’re a narrative that can show the world what we’ve experienced, and how we feel, as we sometimes struggle for words.

Isn’t it difficult?  Going off to war?  Leaving hearth and home, leaving the children, the spouse, all those things that are essential to who you are?

I haven’t seen the film, “Fort Bliss,” but this story about the Mother-Soldier or Soldier-Mother is one that deserves to be told.  How many of us have known a female Marine, Soldier, Airman, or Sailor who hasn’t struggled upon coming home?

The film was shot in El Paso and on Ft Bliss with the full cooperation of the U.S. Army Motion Picture & Television Liaison Office. This means they did everything from read the script and make suggestions for accuracy, to help arrange the filming schedule on post. What it doesn’t mean is that they edited the film, or used undue influence to shape the film.

So here’s your chance to write a review for us. Go see Fort Bliss, and let us know what you thought about the film by hitting the “contact us” button.  While it is in a few theaters, the film is streaming online, via On Demand, and Digital formats. Check their website for more info.

  • Who were the main characters?
  • What strength did the characters have?
  • What vulnerabilities did they have?
  • Did you relate to them?
  • Why or Why Not?
  • Did the film remind you of something that happened to you or a friend?
  • How was your own, or your friend’s circumstances worked through?
  • Did you feel the film captured the problem that female soldiers with families face?
  • Did you feel the depiction was clear, and fair?


A decorated Army medic and single mother (Michelle Monaghan) returns home from an extended tour in Afghanistan to discover that the bond with her five-year-old son has been shattered.  In her absence, the boy has attached to his father  (Ron Livingston) and his new girlfriend (Emmanuelle Chriqui).  As she struggles to reclaim her son’s affection and reintegrate into civilian life, she meets a mechanic (Manolo Cardona) with whom she becomes romantically involved.  Just as her life begins to stabilize and the bond with her son shows signs of healing, she gets news of another deployment. She must now find a way to reconcile her duties as a mother and her obligations as a soldier.