ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Emil Anderson was 17 when he was drafted in the Vietnam War. He was in the marines for two years, but the effects of war last a lifetime.
“It was very scary,” he said. “Left me with PTSD, left me with a drug addiction, it left me with insecurities in life.”
Anderson says his life changed when he discovered the Veteran’s Outreach Center. It hooked him up with a job, and gave him the help he needed to recover.
Nick Stefanovic is the director of Veteran Affairs for Monroe County. He says these resources for veterans weren’t the same at all when the worst of the pandemic hit.
“Being at home in isolation is a huge factor in that. It went from meeting face to face to online or phone conversations,” said Stefanovic.
He says the transition was devastating to the veterans community. He had to quickly come up with solutions to work around it. Getting people outside in nature was one idea.
“A safe way to do it – considering what we’ve been going through,” said Stefanovic.
It’s called ecotherapy, and if comes from overseas. Rochester is the first in the state to implement it. The local organization Trybe EcoTherapy pitched it to the county. For people like Anderson, it was a perfect fit.
“We go out in the woods, get a chance to get connected to nature, find some calmness from out of the city,” said Anderson.
It’s all about recovering from the months of isolation and embracing something new.
This program is funded through Monroe County, and Trybe Ecotherapy is providing the services in partnership with the VOC.
For Anderson, community is everything he missed. His message to other vets out there struggling is this:
“Come to the VOC, because there’s a whole lot of programs there,” he said. “When you get with other vets you get a chance to identify with other people.”
And get back up and running again.
The program has been running for a few weeks now. Organizers say this is a supplemental form of therapy, meaning they can add it on to their traditional forms of treatment.