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Call of adventure

Unique outdoor course helps veterans

The Anake Outdoor School takes veterans into the wilderness to overcome hardships. File photo

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Adventure awaits those individuals who wish to explore nature, community and themselves.

The Anake Outdoor School, which is affiliated with the Wilderness Awareness School, is a powerful and supporting training and learning experience for many military veterans.

Anake, which means "protector," comes from the Kamba language, a Bantu language spoken by the Kamba people of Kenya.

"It is an adventure because it encompasses both the feeling of aliveness and excitement as well as challenge and overcoming hardship," wrote Debra Bouchegnies on behalf of the Wilderness Awareness School.

This is a feeling many veterans can identify with.

"It also refers to the adventurous journey one takes through the seasons of fall, winter and spring, through personal growth and transformation and also through the cultivation of new patterns, new ways of being, and new way of seeing the world."

For some veterans, the school offers a sense of camaraderie that is missed once they've begun the transition to civilian life.  For other veterans, the school provides an opportunity for healing through nature awareness and connections.

The school's promotional information says that students foster their own connections to the earth and to their own gifts as they cultivate the skill and capacity to be in genuine service to their communities.

In its 18th year, the school has offered a field-based program for veterans committed to deepening connections with nature, themselves and the people around them.  Based near Duvall, Washington, the nine-month experience provides what its instructors like to call the premier nature connection immersion program for adults in helping them become an empowered and healthy person living in the 21st century.

Over 400 students, many of whom are veterans, have graduated from the school.  Some of the graduates continue on with the Anake Leadership Program.

For some veterans, the school offers a sense of camaraderie that is missed once they've begun the transition to civilian life.  For other veterans, the school provides an opportunity for healing through nature awareness and connections.

"I stumbled across a job teaching environmental education, and I really enjoyed it and wanted a better way to learn how to do it, I guess, to learn a different skill set," recalled Daniel Foster, a former Marine, in a YouTube video highlighting veterans' experiences at the school.

"It kinda felt like the right thing to do at the time, so I did my research and the GI bill covered it."

The $11,950 tuition for the nine-month course and living expenses are eligible for coverage by the GI Bill.  

"However, every student has a unique situation and the amount available is determined by things like length of service and how much of your benefit has been used prior to enrolling," added Bouchegnies.

Once accepted, students learn through a combination of lectures coupled with exercises, challenges and daily routines that allow them to gain knowledge from living their own adventures and pursuing their own curiosity.

"I feel much more grounded; able to look at myself in a different way; much more confident," related veteran Justin Scott.

For many veterans, the program helps them reintegrate with the civilian world.

When I got out of the military, it was hard for me," concluded Foster.  "I came up here, and I realized things about myself and my military experience that were not necessarily ended.  Up here it gave me the tools and experience I need to recognize those endings."

For more information about the school, visit http://wildernessawareness.org/adult-programs/anake, or contact outreach coordinator Kyle Koch at kylek@wildernessawareness.org or at 425.681.2612.  For help with the GI Bill certification process, contact Linda Bittle at lindab@wildernessawareness.org or call 425.788.1301, extension 42.

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