VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — The City of Virginia Beach and United Service Organizations (USO) have designed a one-of-a-kind event for wounded, ill and injured service members and their families.
As part of USO Warrior Week, veterans and active military were invited to take part in EQUI-VETS, an opportunity to ride horses at the Naval Air Station Oceana stables in Virginia Beach.
The program is about helping veterans ride their way in the right direction, because sometimes the deep wounds of war rob them of that. According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 11 and 20 percent of veterans return home with PTSD.
“We need to do the most we can do, we can never, ever repay these people any of them,” said Jill Brown, a retired Navy commander who is volunteering at Oceana Stables. “I love these people. I love this country.”
Matthew Isenhower, a veteran with PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, hearing loss and anxiety, says he appreciates the work of USO Warrior Week and also enjoys the horses.
“I was raised riding horses,” said Isenhower. “It means a lot to get the opportunity to get back on it. All of the struggles of that and trying to battle through that when I was 20 years old, was very difficult.”
A simple activity like riding a horse surrounded by a sea of veterans is comforting, says Tracy Durbin who is enlisted in the Navy as a senior chief.
“It’s my first time riding or touching a horse,” said Durbin. “I suffer from PTSD. You change, but through healing and going through counseling and family support and my husband, just having him to talk to.”
Her husband Will Durbin says it’s wonderful to see his wife on a horse. Together, they are riding with a purpose.
“When anxiety gets high, there are few things that can bring it down and to see her being able to participate, that can bring that down, and can bring some joy is amazing,” said Will Durbin.
Whether it’s a mental or physical feeling, the horses are a coping mechanism.
Kathy Chitwood is the program drector for EQUI-VETS and says, “It’s really been successful with people with PTSD, traumatic brain injury, depression, anxiety, it has helped exponentially relieve those symptoms of those conditions.”