Rustic Warriors uses outdoors to soothe veterans with PTSD

Midwest

A Rustic Warriors kayaking trip on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo courtesy of Rustic Warriors.

(NewsNation) — Having spent decades in the U.S. military, veterans Greg Hungiville and his wife Lisa noticed that they and many of their closest friends who had also served shared the experience of living with PTSD.

“Lisa and I decided that we need to create an organization to let people know that they’re not in this fight alone….we want to let ’em know that there’s an organization that cares about our warriors,” Hungiville said.

He and his wife worked with another nonprofit called Cast & Hook Fishing — which takes veterans and first responders who deal with PTSD out fishing — to start an organization called Rustic Warriors

Cast & Hook Fishing had been around since 2021, and Hungiville and his wife had been involved with that nonprofit previously. “They asked us if we wanted to come on and be a sister company and do the outdoor aspect of it,” he said.

The organization brings both veterans and first responders on outdoor adventures that include horseback riding, hunting, hiking, archery and even skydiving in order to help them soothe the symptoms of their PTSD.

“We’re trying to bring them closer to Mother Nature so that they can start the healing process, which just the soothing aspect, the healing aspect, and just enjoying what God has created on this planet,” he said.

Greg Hungiville on a hike with a fellow veteran in Hudson, Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Rustic Warriors.

In the two months the organization has been in operation, around 100 people have participated in its activities.

Hungiville described one of the experiences he had with a veteran out on a kayaking excursion.

“I pulled up next to him because I could tell he was having a little bit of an attack, an anxiety attack, and I looked over and I said, ‘Hey how are you doing?’ And he looked at me and he says ‘Greg, I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be’ and then he paused and then he looked dead in my eye and he said, ‘You guys saved my life,'” he said. “And so that right there told me we’re doing the right thing.”

Research published last year in the Journal of Clinical Psychology looked at how spending time outdoors could benefit people who have PTSD. It found that more time spent outdoors was linked to reduced PTSD symptoms.

But Lisa Wickner Hungiville stressed that Rustic Warriors is not a replacement for traditional PTSD treatment.

“We still encourage them to meet with their psychiatrist and continue with their medications and what they’re doing with their psychiatrists and everything else,” she said. “We aren’t psychiatrists. All we do is take them out to do outdoor adventures and be with their peers, that’s it.”

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