Archery brings a sense of calm to many, providing a focus they might otherwise lack. This bow-and-arrow sport sharpens the mind and strengthens the body; zeroing in on small objects like a target focuses your attention, helping the archer to block out distractions – and even stress of the most difficult kind.
That focus helps veterans recover from post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), and readjust to civilian life. Glenn French, a veteran who has battled PTSD, explained archery’s benefits to Military1:
“Archery requires many attributes that soldering demands, such as discipline, focus, frequent training, fitness and clarity of the mind for absolute situational awareness. As the archer develops his skills, the constant desire to succeed takes a hold of the Warrior and the journey that never ends begins.”
These veterans are used to physically and emotionally demanding training, so incorporating a sport into their routines to maintain the focus and skill they’re used to helps make the transition from combat to everyday life smoother.
Master Sgt. Shawn “Bubba” Vosburg has competed in archery in the Warrior Games (an Olympic style competition for veterans). Vosburg told the Archery/Shooting Wire: “You have to focus so hard when you’re pulling the bow back to get any kind of consistency, the aim, the shot process, everything about it. When you’re in that thought of making that shot or pulling the bow back or even in practice, you’re so focused on that. It calms you. It takes your mind off everything else. It’s an amazing thing. It’s just you and your bow.”
Becoming so invested in the shot that your mind cancels out anything else is part of what makes archery great therapy. “When you start to feel anxious, you can literally watch your site bounce up and down as your heartbeat increases, so it makes you learn how to calm down and breathe,” Vosburg further explained in his interview with Archery Wire.
Some veterans are already interested in archery, but don’t realize how much it helps them. “When I was first diagnosed with PTSD some time ago, my doctor asked me where my safe place was. I sat there and thought about it for a couple of minutes and really couldn’t think of a response. I told him that I feel safe wherever I am. Well, his specialty is combat veterans and law enforcement types so he provided me some examples. After a brief pause it came to me: ‘in my tree stand with my bow and arrow.’”
Finding a group of veterans to practice archery as a group helps with the craft and allows veterans to surround themselves with individuals with similar experiences. WNEP 16 News spoke with Vietnam veteran Jerry Gronchick about the veteran archery program he started at The Archery Zone in Pennsylvania. “The archery program is a form of recreational therapy. Gronchick believes veterans surrounded by other veterans helps them deal with PTSD through building camaraderie.” It’s also no surprise that veterans with no archery experience arrive with pretty good aim.
“It doesn’t matter where you at, when you are just around other veterans you just have this sense of communication and brotherhood.” said fellow veteran and archer Adam Kudell.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been shooting a bow for years, or have never picked up a quiver in your life. Either way, archery benefits everyone.