Seeking Refuge in the Mountains, Purpose After Service

By BRIAN SMITH

The mountains were calling.

Chris was struggling to find a sense of purpose and a sense of self.

The former Air Force intelligence officer had always been interested in the outdoors, but when he started climbing mountains — back in the task-oriented, team-dynamic world he loved about the military — something clicked.

Chris_3There he found peace. And strength.

“I can go into the mountains and become a person that I like again,” he said. “… (It was) feeling powerful, feeling valued, feeling like I was important to the group. I never felt unimportant, but I questioned the path I was on.”

One day, Chris found No Barriers. Soon, his passion led him to be selected to lead a week-long trip in the mountains surrounding Leadville, Colo. While the group of 11 veterans did a number of physical challenges, Chris said the best part was the around-the-campfire discussions.

Many, for the first time since their injuries, were able to start healing fully.Chris_2

“We had some pretty deep, introspective explorations with the group that shocked me, but that I loved,” he said. “It was these veterans opening up to other veterans in ways I don’t think they could have, or would have with anyone else.

“When I saw the power of that, I realized I needed to stay involved and get more deeply involved.”

To hear more of Chris’ story and what it means to him, listen to this 15-minute podcast below. Be sure to apply for our programming as we roll out our 2015 suite of expeditions, and if you know a veteran who would benefit from one of our journeys, nominate them.