Veterans are finding camaraderie and a sense of comfort in civilian life as they cope with the mental and physical wounds of war, thanks to American Veterans Archaeological Recovery.
The organization is a veteran-run nonprofit that places military personnel and veterans on archaeological excavations around the world.
“We use the community-focused social and technical aspects of field archaeology to provide a holistic, mission-oriented experience to American veterans, allowing them to excel in a new discipline regardless of physical or psychological injuries,” they wrote on Facebook.
Most recently, a group of veterans have been helping to uncover artifacts from a Revolutionary War-era battlefield. The vets worked together to dig holes at spots that set off metal detectors, searching through dirt, at the Saratoga National Historical Park in New York.
“We really want to focus more on the abilities of our veterans rather than the disabilities,” Stephen Humphreys, CEO of AVAR, told AP. “We’ve seen that veterans are actually very good at archeology when they’re properly trained. So we want to take the skills that they have from when they were in the military and teach them how to do this really well.”
The veterans are searching for artifacts that would lead to a better understanding of the Battle of Bemis Heights and the Second Battle of Saratoga.
Not only are they spending their time digging, but they are also getting to know one another.
“We can all come together, share your battle stories, your deployment stories, and share your love for the history of what you’re digging,” Bjorn Bruckshaw, an Army veteran injured in a roadside bombing in Iraq, told Military Times.
AVAR says that bonds made on excavations help veterans “work through feelings of isolation, disempowerment, and loss of purpose that often occur when service members transition into the civilian world.”
Former Army Col. Tim Madere went from looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, to sifting through dirt for artifacts at the battlefield. He says it has helped with his PTSD and believes this kind of field work is a good way for others to manage theirs as well.
“You hear their stories and then you tell yours so that we kind of get a better appreciation of what all these Americans did to protect the United States,” Madere told Military Times. “So it’s good to see other people, and they’re doing well.”