“The whole range of emotions kicks in,” says Chris Reader. “First you’re excited, then you’re sad. Maybe not sadness, but your emotions are all over the place.”
Reader is one of nearly 400 veterans and first responders who have taken part in a new type of therapy in Canada.
“We join when we’re, you know, 17, 18, 19 (years old),” said Todd Hisey, who served a total of 22 years as an infantry officer in the Canadian Army. He has gone overseas with the army three times.
“In some ways it defined who I was. And now that I’m out of the military, it’s kind of like, ‘Who am I now?'”
Leser’s experience returning to civilian life was similar.
“Everything from anxiety, crippling depression, survivor’s guilt,” he explains. “I have all these symptoms that follow me now that I have to deal with now.
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“I feel like I’m fighting trying to be a shadow of what I used to be.”
That’s part of what drew Hisey to hunting. Several years after being removed from service, he created The Veteran Hunters, turning veterans and first responders into “heroes who hunt.”
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“I felt a form of satisfaction because I could still soldier, but now I could use those skills to put food on my family’s table,” says Hisey.
The non-profit organization started in 2019. Since then, it has benefited from numerous donors, landowners and even a TV show.
“We tell everyone, ‘I can’t guarantee you a harvest, but I can guarantee you’re going to have an unforgettable experience with wildlife,'” Hisey says.
And it’s the friendships built around those experiences that organizers say create value, and – hopefully – healing, for years to come.
“It’s not a community,” says Reader. “It’s family.”
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