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The Significance of 11/11/11

November 11, 2011

TAOS, N.M. - Beautification of the Taos Plaza takes on special significance this Veterans Day as the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps and the Sierra Club invite returned veterans and their families to be honored and to participate in a service project. According to the All Volunteer Force report and The Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom Veterans Survey, a significant number of veterans want to continue to serve even after they must leave the military because of injury or medical or family issues.

Kristina Ortez, the southwest representative for the Mission Outdoors Program at the Sierra Club, says there's healing in nature.

"We found that service, and especially service outdoors, is something that can help our veterans heal. There's a lot of good evidence that shows that time spent outdoors being active in service helps reduce stress."

The All Volunteer Force report calls for America to change the national dialogue around returning veterans, and view them as important contributors to communities across America, not just challenges to address. As one veteran said, "We are not charity cases, we are assets."

Ortez says she hopes the 2011 Veterans Day of Ceremony and Service grows into an annual event.

"We've been working with the veterans' groups. But this service project is something that's a little bit different. What we're hoping is that this becomes a lasting legacy, that we connect them with the idea and the concept of serving outdoors and being outdoors in general."

A study conducted by The Rand Corporation in 2008 says more than 300,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts suffer from PTSD. The vast majority of them continue to lead productive, meaningful lives.

The event at Taos Plaza is scheduled for Friday, November 11 from 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. MST.

Beth Blakeman/Glen Gardner, Public News Service - NM