The therapeutic sport that's helping combat stress

Many men and women across this nation have discovered the ancient art and have fell in love with the individual satisfaction that this sport can provide


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Before the first American Military Soldier ever donned a uniform, America’s original warriors, the Native American Braves spent much of their time on the range honing their archery skills for future hunts and battles. The ancient battle weapon system known as the bow and arrow still thrives in modern day culture. The advent of the compound bow over the past thirty years has bolstered the popularity of archery.

Many men and women across this nation have discovered the ancient art and have fell in love with the individual satisfaction that this sport can provide. Those that haven’t experienced the mastery of the flight of the arrow may not know is the calming sense that fills you’re soul produced by the mental focus needed to relax your mind and body before every release of the bow string. Modern day military soldiers, wounded veterans and charitable support groups such as the Active Heroes Retreat Center and Camp Cuervo Archery Club have discovered the therapeutic benefits of archery which tend to increase healing to all soldiers, veterans and wounded warriors.   

Archery requires many attributes that soldering demands such as discipline, focus, frequent training, fitness and clarity of the mind for absolute situational awareness. As the archer develops his skills, the constant desire to succeed takes a hold of the Warrior and the journey that never ends begins.

Army Sgt. Josh Leavitt releases an arrow at a target on the base archery range during the 19th annual Military Appreciation Picnic and Arctic Warrior Olympics. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)
Army Sgt. Josh Leavitt releases an arrow at a target on the base archery range during the 19th annual Military Appreciation Picnic and Arctic Warrior Olympics. (U.S. Air Force photo/Justin Connaher)

I have been involved with archery for almost thirty five years now. During my military service and law enforcement career, archery has been the only constant (outside of family) that has remained in my life. I can remember shooting archery back on Fort Wood and spending time in a tree stand, when we weren’t deployed. My partner and I would hit the archery range, (when he wasn’t on the trail), to shoot and check out the latest gear.

While serving in law enforcement, there was always a target in my back yard and bow equipment lying around in the house. My two boys were raised with a bow and arrow in-hand, the oldest doing well with competition shooting and my youngest crazy over traditional archery as he makes his own long bows and traditional gear. What I never realized is during the past three decades, archery has provided me therapy and a release. Until recently, I didn’t realize the therapeutic effect archery has had on me, until my club “Gilberts Sportsman’s Club” in Michigan, donated money to Camp Cuervo Archery Club for its mission to support our troops. It was then I realized that all along archery was providing me with a self-healing therapy throughout my professional career.

PTSD and Stress Relief
When I was first diagnosed with PTSD some time ago, my doctor asked me where my safe place was. I sat there and thought about it for a couple of minutes and really couldn’t think of a response. I told him that I feel safe where ever I am. Well, his specialty is combat veterans and law enforcement types so he provided me some examples. After a brief pause it came to me: “in my tree stand with my bow and  arrow.” I didn’t realize then that during the past 30 years my hobby was what was helping me maintain a clear mind.

Some real smart men and good people had already recognized the personal benefit that archery provides such as Camp Cuervo Archery club, a non-profit organization that recently celebrated its tenth year in operation. Camp Cuervo supports the United States Armed Forces by increasing troop morale through archery. Their focus is providing archery equipment for service members deployed worldwide and stateside. They believe that archery can be an effective rehabilitate activity for injured and disabled persons and demonstrate this by hosting the Army Strong Challenge and archery programs for Warrior Transition Units and the Soldier Adaptive Recondition Programs.

Another great organization recognizing that archery can help heal our wounded warriors is the Active Heroes Retreat Center. Recently, Active Heroes Retreat Center and Camp Cuervo volunteers provided new targets, equipment and ranges on the grounds at the Active Heroes Retreat Center to be used in helping military families deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide and depression. The program has become very popular since its inception and soldiers enjoy the opportunity to “cleanse their souls” as the great archer Fred Bear would say.   

I spend a little time nearly every day shooting one of my bows. It may be the recurve bow with handmade cedar arrows or the modern compound bow with lightning fast speeds but the end results are all the same. While I am shooting, the world around me is forgotten, the wind and birds are louder and my mind clears of the clutter that causes stress. That is one of the main objectives of any doctor and therapist while treating a soldier with PTSD.

Eventually my shoulders and back become tired from the arrows released from my string, and I put my gear away. I can honestly say that I feel the calmness that the spirit of the arrow provides once known by the Native American warriors before me. The ancient art of archery has always been there for me, providing therapy, even when I didn’t realize it. I encourage all of you to take part in the sport and experience the personal satisfaction it can provide. Find a local archery club, dealer or buddy and fling some arrows down range and I bet you will come to love it as many of us do.

You can contact Active Heroes Retreat Center at www.activeheroes.org and Camp Cuervo at www.campcuervo.org.

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