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August 19, 2014 at 10:16am

NW Military in the Outdoors Expo inspired veterans to explore

NW Military in the Outdoors Expo lined the Ruston Way waterfront in Tacoma Aug. 16. Photo credit: Gary Lott

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I just moved here. What do I do? How do I get out?

These are questions that many may ask when moving to Washington, and thanks to an event on the Ruston Way waterfront this past Saturday, many service members now have some answers.

The NW Military in the Outdoors Expo showcased a wide range of workforce and recreation opportunities available to service members, veterans and families in the Pacific Northwest.

"It's a way to bring visibility to a community that's very important to the fabric of our country," said Lili Allala, a Northwest recruiter for the Student Conservation Association. "It's a way to network, get to know one another and see what other programs and organizations are out there that can assist."

Certification courses are available in wilderness first aid, chainsaw handling and red card certification and firefighting. And with wildfires burning in Central Washington, there are many employment and emergency preparedness opportunities available.

"In certain situations like fighting a fire, you're working in a team and trusting them with your livelihood," Allala said.  "That kind of level of pushing yourself physically and mentally in the outdoors is something that the military is already used to."

>>> Nicholas and his son, Cole, climbed the Washington National Guard's Recruiting and Retention Battalion's rock wall. Photo credit: Gary Lott

However, the outdoors doesn't just mean emergency preparedness.

"Everything is centered around the outdoors, but it's about so much more," said NW Military in the Outdoors Expo organizer and Sierra Club Military Outdoors lead organizer Joshua Brandon. "It's also about recreation, employment, therapy and education all combined, and it's really important for the military to look at it in that range."

From 2002-2012, Brandon served as an Army infantry officer, went on three deployments to Iraq and was even a 3-2 Stryker right at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. With multiple deployments, Brandon experienced post traumatic stress disorder struggles firsthand.

"From my personal experience, recovery can be a big benefitting factor for the military to take from the outdoors," he said. "It's a natural treatment for PTSD and TBI and is so much better than pills."

This message of recovery, recreation, emergency preparedness and even employment is a message that Brandon has been preaching for years.  However, when he met Nicholas Carr, the constituent services representative for veterans, active duty military and higher education for Representative Derek Kilmer during an annual 9/11 therapy mountain traverse up the Olympic mountains, the message turned into the NW Military in the Outdoors Expo.

"Hearing about how the outdoors saved my life and the positive effects it's had on me, Nick has been extremely passionate and just really wanted to get that message out to the people in the community," Brandon said.

This was the first annual NW in the Outdoors Expo, but according to Carr and Brandon, it will undoubtedly not be the last.

For more information visit www.facebook.com/NWMilitaryOutdoors.

Filed under: Military, Veterans, outdoors,
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