CHICAGO - A special program for military veterans uses Mother Nature to heal the wounds of war.
The "At Ease" program, now in its third year, has been proven to reduce stress and improve symptoms of PTSD. "At Ease" is a military term for taking a break or putting down your guard.
"Just today we heard from some of the veterans that they feel better than they've felt all week, coming out in the sun, listening to the leaves and just being present," said Catherine Game, Executive Director of the non-profit Brushwood Center.
The Center organizes trips for veterans to local nature preserves for the program, free of charge.
FOX 32 followed a group of veterans from the Lovell V.A. in North Chicago as they participated in an activity known as "forest bathing" at Linne Woods in Morton Grove. An instructor lead the group in a tea ceremony, as well as studying certain objects they found in the preserve.
"I know a lot of the veterans that I take over here, that's what happens, is they are able to reflect on what's in front of them as opposed to what's behind them," said Marshall Fox, a U.S. Air Force Veteran. "That's one of the main things. You're with other veterans and you're put into an environment that's just very peaceful."
ComEd sponsors the program through funding and by providing access to prairie lands under transmission lines.
"A recent study found that just 20 minutes in nature can significantly reduce stress and symptoms of depression. So with veterans facing across the country suicide rates of 20 people dying each day, simple solutions like this are just so critical," said Game.
The program is free and open to all veterans. Nature photography classes are also offered.
For more information, head to https://www.brushwoodcenter.org/programs/at-ease.