One of the great things about working at a Vet Center is the opportunity to develop unique therapy programs for Veterans. This past year, we started an archery group at the Abilene Vet Center.

Some Veterans now have memberships and go to an archery range daily or weekly on their own or with a friend.

Some Veterans now have memberships and go to an archery range daily or weekly on their own or with a friend.

As a group, we go to a beautifully maintained bow range in Abilene, Texas, with more than 200 wooded acres, a static range and 3D targets set up along trails. The property is maintained by the Abilene Texas Bow Hunters Association and volunteers who share their passion of archery with the city.

We go to the range once a month. We are there for about four hours, and the Veterans in our group receive instruction in basic bow skills. The group enjoys the outdoors and develops its newly learned skills in a quiet and peaceful environment. The attached photos show activities from January, prior to our new normal.

Time to relax and encourage each other

Importantly, the archers have time to connect in relaxing ways, which tends to evolve into encouragement.

We use archery as a tool for well-being. It has helped our Veterans find a safe place to participate in a social activity that uses their focus, whole body and abilities for stillness. This activity requires some physical strength but has a very wide accessibility.

It helps improve physical control of breathing, bodily awareness and control, and mental concentration. Also, it lets the Veterans develop focus and mindfulness, as well as a connection with the outdoors.

It is hard to think about worries while at the bow range. Most of our Veterans enjoy this distraction from life by refocusing on living, aiming and enjoyment. It has given them new hope and a new enjoyment in life.

New coping tools and relationships

Some Veterans now have memberships and go daily or weekly on their own or with a friend. For them, it establishes a new set of coping tools and relationships.

Veterans have told us it is better than a sport like golf, easier to become skilled, is more affordable, and has more primitive and survival elements.

We are thankful to the Abilene Bow Hunters Association for their support and help. They are eager to give back to our Veterans. A special thanks to Ron Ferguson and Martin Smith for their skillful instruction and encouragement. They have been very generous with contributions and sharing their 40+ years of skills in the practice of bow hunting and archery.

Steve Rowlands is a readjustment therapist and Nick J. Tapie is the director, both at the Abilene Vet Center.

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