Skip to main content

Veterans Find Peace on America’s Trails (


Spending time in nature, or “ecotherapy,” is increasingly recognized as a helpful therapy for people suffering from PTSD. It’s a path to recovery that Cindy Ross promotes in her new book, Walking Toward Peace: Veterans Healing on America’s Trails. She profiles former soldiers who suffer from depression, guilt, nightmares, and hypervigilance as a result of their damaging experience in war. Regaining equilibrium in civilian life is yet another battle for these wounded warriors, sweated out on long thru-hikes like the Appalachian Trail. In this excerpt, Travis Johnston, who served as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan, mourns the death by suicide of Zach, a close friend and fellow Ranger. He undertakes a physically and emotionally challenging hike—as a memorial to his friend, and in search of some peace.

Travis screenshot

The suicide rate for active-duty U.S. military members in 2018 was the highest on record since the U.S. Department of Defense began tracking self-inflicted deaths in 2001. Since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, military suicides have so increased across the board that they have outpaced combat deaths. Special Forces Operations have the highest numbers. “Constant deployments and unrealistic mission expectations” are taking their toll on these elite forces, said top commander Army Gen. Raymond Thomas of Special Operations Command. David Joslin, U.S. Army captain medic and founder of the veteran’s organization Remedy Alpine, which uses adventures in nature to heal wounded veterans, has studied the issue of suicide in the military. “To better understand why Warriors and Veterans appear to so readily contemplate and complete suicide,” Joslin points to three factors that seem to make suicide an acceptable alternative for warriors and veterans:

“First, from the moment we join the military service we are taught that we are expendable, we are merely government property, and our own life is institutionally devalued. Second, as we train and prepare for war, we are taught to accept our own death—we save the final round for ourselves as an alternative to capture, we engage and deploy on missions with no viable outcome other than death “suicide missions.” Third, we are trained to very efficiently and effectively deliver death—the ultimate job of a Warrior is to kill. And in this, human life in general is devalued. In considering these three factors of conditioning, why is anyone surprised that Warriors and Veterans consider suicide as a viable alternative when they are at their darkest and lowest place?”

Walking Toward Peace screenshot

To read more of Cindy Ross' article, please click here.


Images (2)
  • Walking Toward Peace screenshot
  • Travis screenshot

Add Comment

Comments (0)

Copyright © 2023, PACEsConnection. All rights reserved.
Link copied to your clipboard.