The next handhold on rock. The next bootstep on a mountain trail. The next touch of the sun on the face. The next breath of thin air, or skis slicing through snow. The present moment. Outside. Now.
Powerful medicine. Medicine so powerful it helped one man alleviate the trauma of war and the confusion of returning to civilian life after military service. And, here’s the wild idea: Maybe it can work for others, too.
Iraq War veteran and outdoor adventurer Stacy Bare comes to Coconino Community College on Nov. 18 to share how the outdoors saved his life once he returned to civilian life. His keynote talk is part of “Finding Home: Stories of Belonging,” a free event, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at CCC’s Lone Tree Campus in Flagstaff.
This year’s event is focused on the CCC Common Read book selection this year, “Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging,” by Sebastian Junger. The Common Read program “invites students, employees and community members to read one book and to engage in common intellectual experiences related to that book.” Faculty are encouraged to use the book in their classes as well.
“Tribe” explores the deep bonds forged by people who serve in the military, especially during times of war, and the difficulty they experience transitioning back to civilian life.
The evening will begin with readers who submitted work to the CCC publications Curios and OnCourse. Both publications this year adopted the theme of “belonging” from “Tribe” and showcases work from local high school students, NAU students, CCC students, staff and local writers and artists in Coconino County.
Sandra Dihlmann-Lunday, CCC English instructor, added in the publications, “We hope by exploring what it means to belong, we will come closer to understanding what it means to be human and better understand how to build a stronger, supportive community in today’s divided world.”
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OUTDOORS AS CATALYST
Bare, a captain in the U.S. Army, returned from Iraq, and to cope with the pain of war, the loss of comrades, the confusion of being a civilian again, he turned to alcohol and drugs. In 2009, he spoke with a friend in Colorado about suicide. His friend suggested rock climbing instead.
“Time outdoors served as the catalyst to my change,” he said. “I used to say it saved my life, and in a sense, it did, but more than that, I think I used as a reminder as to the fact that I wanted to live.”
Along the way, he figured that if it worked for him, it could work for other veterans. Not only that, he wanted to finish the stories, in his way, about the places he served as a soldier. As part of “Adventure Not War,” he and fellow veterans skied and climbed mountains in Angola, Iraq and Afghanistan to offer positive memories for places that held much darkness for them.
“The best parts of war and service are shadows of the best of what you can find in the outdoors – a sense of purpose, a mission, camaraderie, connection to something bigger than yourself, positive awe,” Bare said. “It helps to show you that the coolest, most badass things you’ve done in life can still be in front of you.”
Since that fateful rock-climbing adventure with his friend, Bare, a husband and father, has been selected as the 2014 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. He served as director of the Sierra Club. He’s a former ambassador for The North Face and a current ambassador for Trew Gear. He worked in land mine clearance with The HALO Trust in Angola and Abkhazia. And he runs Bare, LLC, a consulting firm that helps organizations focused on connecting people and communities to nature.
Rise. Recover. Live. It’s a powerful mantra for Bare, and he’s looking forward to returning to Flagstaff.
“I came for the first time in 2000 when I was stationed down in Sierra Vista,” Bare said. “I was overwhelmed with the beauty of the place. My wife graduated from NAU, took classes at CCC and even lived and taught in Flag for a while. So excited to be invited to this special place!”