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An Incredible Source of Healing: Andy with Veteran’s Outward Bound Sea Kayaking Course, Outer Banks North Carolina, May 14 -20, 2013, Wrap Up

May 23, 2013

I had no idea how healing it would be myself and other Veterans on the Sea Kayaking Course provided by North Carolina Outward Bound School, May 14-20, 2013. This course seemed to be the right mix of people, Vets and instructors, conditions and environment, to create an atmosphere of safety, camaraderie and skill building leaving all filled with gratitude and love. As a young Marine Officer,  I was required to read the Armed Forces Officer Guide. At that time, I was struck to learn how important it is that leaders need to be sensitive to people’s needs. I was warmed by the sensitivity of the crew that formed on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on May 14, 2013.

The crew in the early part of the expedtion

The crew in the early part of the expedition

Mike and Eric practicing rescue

Mike and Eric practicing rescue

That the United States of America and Outward Bound provides these courses to our Veterans is now a source of pride for me. I am a conservationist. I love trees and animals, clean  water ways, wild stormy places, where either animals or conditions are a threat to my safety. It is no paradox or contradiction that I take pride as an American and a former US Marine,   that I can express my views on how mega corporations and selfishness wreak havoc on the gifts of nature.

I am also a child of Vietnam. I can recall citizens spitting on our Vets returning home from a conflict that our government was not totally committed to. That we are now treating our Vets with respect and dignity renews my patriotism.

One of the views from Outward Bound Base Camp

One of the views from Outward Bound Base Camp

Setting up tents in base camp

Setting up tents in base camp

We are all aware that Nature is a healing modality in itself. Through my journey, I have found that given the right conditions and boundaries that men can be incredibly safe, warm and connective. Because of this process, my crew and myself were able to release pain and suffering. One of the more important avenues for this release were the biographies in the evening. We told of broken families, addictions, homelessness, war trauma and other significant wounding. Some of us came from secure, intact homes. For myself, I was able to release pain of not quite being the Marine that I could have been through immaturity and addiction. I have done a lot of work for myself in individual and group counseling, 12 step groups and meditation. I needed this last piece from Outward Bound and my crew. What a difference that made being able to share this with a bunch of  intelligent, capable Marines and other servicemen. These men and instructors helped me to reclaim a very important part of myself.

Mitch and Sid made us belly laugh throughut the course; my Marine buddy Patrick a Vietnam Vet was like a father to me

Mitch and Sid made us belly laugh throughout the course; my Marine buddy Patrick, a Vietnam Vet, was like a father to me

Trish launching Day 4

Trish launching Day 4

The course began at the small, but attractive New Bern airport. Immediately I was struck by the warmth of Sid, a young Marine tanker, who had served in the Iraqi conflict, as the group formed in the airport. Later in the course I would tell Sid and others how I was so taken aback by his warmth that I thought that he must have been so wounded by war that he must be psychotic (this from a therapist!?!)

Sid in the center making us all laugh

Sid in the center making us all laugh

Headed to Cape Lookout

Headed to Cape Lookout

We immediately left to the Outward Bound Base Camp to pick up gear for afternoon instruction. Along the way to the bridge, we engaged in an ice breaker that brought the group together. The instructors immediately got us on the water for quick exits and basic paddling skills. Our instructors were Trish, Nat and Merle. We were to find they would be the right mix of age, skill and wisdom to succeed with a bunch of salty Vets. Trish established herself early by her enthusiasm, ability to create safety and take charge attitude.  We would find that this group of instructors had spent a big chunk of their lives leading trips for Outward Bound. We all loved Nat’s enthusiasm and Merle’s soft wisdom.

Our Leaders

Our Leaders: Trish, Nat and Merle

Breakfast at base camp; Nat, Rich, Mike, Cal and Eric

Breakfast at base camp; Nat, Rich, Mike, Cal and Eric

The second day we were stymied by heavy winds, and made a short run in high wake. We paddled across the sound, finding it challenging. We were forced to do a portage across oyster beds and had to work as team to get the boats. I now understood why close toed shoes are good for ocean paddling. Merle would note later this was the moment in which we became a team. I agree and was impressed by her insight.

Working as a team to get tandems across oyster beds

Working as a team to get tandems across oyster beds; Dennis in the lead

Mitch and Angie, the one female member of our crew, paddling in after rough seas

Mitch and strong, intelligent Angie, the one female member of our crew, paddling in after rough seas

Day three was spent on navigation skills and rescues. Our instructors decided that we were to stay in base camp due to high winds. The group was bonding. I love navigation so I was in heaven looking at charts and taking bearings. That afternoon we practiced rescues, having a blast flipping our boats and reentering in the cool water behind base camp.

The guys behind base campThe guys behind base camp: Mike Mitch and Rich in the foreground
Two Heros: Dennis and Nat

Two Heros: Dennis and Nat

On Day Four we were finally able to begin the expedition from Cape Lookout Visitor Center on Harker’s Island to Cape Lookout. We were practicing staying in a tight formation for safety, traveling in relatively calm waters. We were able to see wild horses in the distance on Morgan’s Island. Two were actually mating much to the amusement and fascination of the nine men on board. One can just imagine the jokes! We arrived  at Cape lookout in the mid afternoon. We able to go to the Visitor Center and look at the small museum near the lighthouse. The volunteer staff was warm friendly and informative. We enjoyed beach camping.

Beautiful sunset pic by Mike with a tent in the foreground

Beautiful sunset pic by Mike with a tent in the foreground

Last day navigation plan being assessed

Last day navigation plan being assessed

Day Five found us “hand railing” South Care Banks, then spending an excellent evening beach camping. Some of us enjoyed swimming.. Then Day Six we had a great paddle across the sound to Base Camp. That afternoon we went into Beaufort to the North Carolina Maritime Museum, then had some ice cream. Outward Bound staffer John Gray prepared low country boil for the crew, that was deeply appreciated. That evening we had an incredible Outward  Bound pin ceremony, we each of us was presented a pin by another crew member. Many of us shed tears, and all of us shared laughter in considering our merits, travels and accomplishments.

Cal, Mike and Eric enjoyed conservation at our last back country beach site

Cal, Mike and Eric enjoyed conversation at our last back country beach site

It doesn't get much better than this!

It doesn’t get much better than this!

The last day the instructors had us do an exercise where the crew would give each individual feedback about what we brought to the table for the crew. We were taken aback about how well each of us saw one another. I was floored and was able to see myself in a much more favorable light.  We were also able to give the instructors lots of positive feedback. There was more belly laughing and tears.  We left base camp to the airport, lots of wet eyes.

The Instructors celebrate a job well done!!

The Instructors celebrate a job well done!!

I love beach camping!

I love beach camping!

from → Local Outings

One Comment leave one →
  1. Patrick Scanlan permalink
    May 23, 2013 9:03 pm

    Wow, Andy! You are so elegant with your words it’s hard to add to them. Can you imagine if we had had this type of experiential education and teaching that Outward Bound is based on when we were in our teens? However, instead of speculating on what could have been, I am most grateful for being “present moment” and let the future unfold as it will.

    Semper Fidelis

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