Veteran respite: How programs help traumatized former servicemen and women find solace in the great outdoors

My nightmares about Iraq come about once a month. They’re one of the “benefits” of my 2004-05 deployment with an Army combat arms unit.

These nocturnal angst-fests present themselves in a few forms. Most commonly, I’m left behind as the convoy drives off into the night, leaving me alone in an Iraqi city. There also are general anxiety dreams where I can’t find my helmet, ammo, or some other critical component of my combat load.

My experiences are not uncommon. I’ve spoken with other veterans about their dreams and even have asked some pointedly, “So, how are your nightmares?”

Such nightmares are one of the more subtle effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), the manifestations of which can run a gamut from nightmares to fear of crowds to substance abuse to even suicide…

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‘Chez’ Chesak is an award-winning travel writer, tourism consultant and 25-year veteran of the outdoor and travel industries. He is Executive Director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and formerly was the Vice President for Business Development for the Adventure Travel Trade Association and Executive Director of the Family Travel Association. He has been serious about his writing since about age eight. He also runs the Central States Chapter of the Society of American Travel Writers. He’s lived all over the U.S. and traveled to some 36 countries but has the most fun when he’s exploring with his wife and two daughters. An avid outdoors person, he’s happiest on a trail, on skis, or nestled into a sleeping bag. He deployed to Iraq with a U.S. Army line unit in 2005. His works have appeared in the Los Angeles Times,, Good Housekeeping, Rachel Ray Every Day, Fatherly, Yahoo Travel, Family Vacation Critic, and many others. He also does periodic travel segments for the morning show of his local FOX affiliate and on American Forces Radio.

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