Healing Our Vets

How meditation and a whitewater adventure lead to newfound strength. 

Lee Lesser, co-founder of Honoring the Path of the Warrior, talks about teaching veterans mindfulness to heal themselves. HPW’s whitewater rafting program is featured in “Healing Waters” in the February 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.


Not all military injuries are as readily visible as those sustained on the battlefield. Yet the pain they cause may be just as deep, and it ripples through families and communities.

• More than 155,000 US troops have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder over the past 24 years.

More than 26,000 military men and women were sexually assaulted in 2011, up from 19,000 the previous year.

Fewer than 20% of those who say they’ve been assaulted have formally reported the crimes. Of those cases, fewer than 10% have gone to trial, while 90% of the assault victims were eventually involuntarily discharged.

• Every day, an average of 22 veterans commit suicide.

• In 2010 alone, 8,030 veterans committed suicide, the VA has reported—more in just one year than the total estimated number of US military deaths in both Iraq and Afghanistan since those conflicts began in 2003.


Honoring the Path of the Warrior is one of several non-profit programs throughout the United States that taps the therapeutic benefits of mindfulness and/or exercise and outdoor activities. Here are a few other resources:

Warriors on Cataract
Boulder, Colorado
Founded in 2011, Warriors On Cataract is a relatively small group that sponsors free, four-day whitewater trips on the Colorado River for disabled veterans, caregivers, and families. They organize all-female raft trips as well.

Rivers of Recovery
Eagan, Minnesota
Founded in 2008, Rivers of Recovery uses a medically designed program, including breathing and awareness exercises, and outdoor activities to treat veterans suffering from PTSD, minor Traumatic Brain Injury, stress, anxiety and depression.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing
La Plata, Maryland
This large, national group, founded in 2005, has close ties with Department of Defense hospitals and Veterans Affairs medical centers. In 2013, it provided fly-fishing classes and outings to more than 5,400 veterans and recovering soldiers.

And if you’re looking for other organizations that support veterans beyond exercise and outdoor activities, check out Mindful’s resources page.

This web extra provides additional information related to an article titled, “Healing Waters,” which appeared in the February 2015 issue of Mindful magazine.