Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Helping Hand: NRPA Addresses the Needs of Soldiers Returning from Battle

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Helping Hand: NRPA Addresses the Needs of Soldiers Returning from Battle

Article excerpt

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The physical and mental well-being of our armed forces personnel is becoming a matter of mounting concern to the American public as our veterans are returning home in increasing numbers from conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The profession of parks and recreation believes it can be, and should be, a vital part of the rehabilitation and recreation of our returning veterans. The enjoyment and use of parks, recreation facilities, and therapeutic recreation services can help bridge the challenging gap that veterans, especially wounded or disabled veterans, must cross as they return home and become reintegrated into their communities and workplaces.

Responding to this concern, the Armed Forces Recreation Society (AFRS) and the National Therapeutic Recreation Society (NTRS) have joined forces and engaged the support of all other branches and sections in an organization-wide effort to meaningfully address these challenges with the NRPA Returning Warriors Task Force. Little or no organized recreational therapy awaits returning veterans. In fact, there are sometimes substantial barriers for veterans to engage in the restorative activities that parks and recreation has to offer.

Leaders and members of the task force have taken up this challenge as their own, and their grass roots energy and enthusiasm is now engaging all sectors of NRPA. At the recently concluded National Institute on Recreation Inclusion in Reston, Va., representatives from the task force met with NRPA Executive Director John Thorner and NRPA staff to discuss how NRPA could best meet the challenge.

Among the observations made by the NTRS and AFRS professionals in this roundtable meeting was the surprising revelation that 50 percent to 80 percent of soldiers with disabling injuries are remaining in the military. The implication is that there is a great need for recreation therapists not just in the community, but in the services as well.

Other observations included a discussion on the increasing severity of disabling injuries, primarily due to advances in medical care in the field that preserves life but leaves individuals to adjust to serious disabilities as well as integration back into the community. …

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