Flathead Lake sailing program aims to help veterans suffering from PTSD

Posted at 11:31 AM, Jun 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-11 13:40:10-04

DAYTON – Sailing schools around the country are reaching out to military veterans, offering them a chance to learn a new skill that could help ease the symptoms of PTSD.

MTN’s Jill Valley recently traveled to Flathead Lake to learn how a day on the water can help anyone find peace.

“Sailing, I feel like, is the sense of freedom that allows you to harness the wind on your own terms,” said Captain Genevieve Evans who owns the Flathead Lake Sailing School.

Evans was getting a Capri 22 ready to take me for a quick sail out of the Dayton Yacht Harbor on a recent sunny Wednesday — it didn’t really matter where we’re going.

“It’s about being on the water and using the equipment and feeling the wind and it’s not always about getting to a certain place,” Evans told MTN News.

She’s part of Operation Vet Sail, a program that teaches basic sailing skills to active and retired service members.

The theory is that sailing is soothing to the soul. It could relieve symptoms of PTSD and can help get anyone back on an even keel.

When you sail, you leave your troubles on the shore. It’s not just a physical distance, either.

It’s an emotional one. You are having a conversation with the wind and the waves and together, they take you someplace entirely new.

“When you turn off the engine and you raise the sails, it’s like someone has flipped a switch and it’s like a whole new set of experiences and you relax and enjoy and feel the breezes and go anywhere you choose to go using nature,” US Air Force veteran Reggie Good said.

Good understands when you’re at the helm, you call the shots. Whether you’re coming about or choosing a tack giving power to someone who might feel they have none.

“It gives them an option to deal with something where they can exercise any amount of control they choose and there’s a lot of things around all of us, veterans included, that we don’t have a lot of control over. This gives us some power back again.”

Sailing can bring families back together, too. They’re away from the stress of the day and their phones and other distractions to achieve a goal together.

“It’s about preparation and drills and forming a community and a team atmosphere to relieve stress and get your focus off of the day-to-day,” Genevieve said.

The wind, the water, the waves, it can bring a sense of freedom to those who fought for ours.

The program offers discounts to veterans for the instruction. Click here for more information.

-Jill Valley reporting for MTN