Veterans bond in nice outdoor

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Don’t miss the somber but stirring opening of this week’s American Legion Tango Alpha Lima Podcast.

Following the brief tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice amid the pullout from Afghanistan a year ago, the podcast co-hosts welcome Army veteran Aaron Leonard. In this week’s episode, Leonard talks about his military career, his work with the Sierra Club and more.

Leonard enlisted in 1987 and was assigned to the 2nd Infantry Division serving on the border between North and South Korea. He later served twice as a major, in 2009 and 2010 in Iraq. In 2014 he retired as a lieutenant colonel.

After returning home from Iraq for about four months, he was among a group of veterans who took part in a dog sledding trip in Minnesota with Outward Bound Veterans in March.

“I would encourage anyone who can to attend,” he said, recalling the first night. “The next thing I know I’m on a frozen lake and it’s 30 below zero and it’s between these two buddies I spent a year abroad with. For the first time in ten years, I felt peace and calm.”

And with that, Leonard laid down his post-duty career path by partnering with veterans with outdoor pursuits.

“We know that a well-managed outdoor program directly benefits a veteran’s wellness needs: spiritually, emotionally, physically, and socially,” said Leonard, a member of American Legion Post 1 in Albany, NY; increase in affiliation; increase in purposefulness; and increase in overall well-being.”

Among the key issues, he noted, is the challenge of moving veterans to outdoor recreation areas. He is actively trying to address this issue. He currently co-chairs the Outdoor Rx Coalition with the New York State Division of Veterans Services, part of the Sierra Club’s Outdoor Rx program.

Such recreational opportunities include outdoor adventures followed by a campfire where veterans continue to gather.

“Now you just tell stories,” he said. “And once you figure out everyone’s branches of service, then there’s the competitiveness, snide comments going back and forth. So it has created that comfortable environment that many of us miss from our time in the ministry.”

Find out more by watching this week’s entire episode. It is among the 140+ available here in both audio and video formats. You can also download episodes from iTunes, Stitcher, or other major podcast hosting sites. The video version can be viewed on the Legion’s YouTube channel.