‘Green Road’ project aims to help veterans and their families recover from war traumas

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Dr. Foote takes the audience through an aerial layout of Walter Reed Naval Support Activity Bethesda (NSAB) Campus, showing the Green Road’s location.

By Hallie Kay

As Veteran’s Day approaches, the issue of veterans’ treatment comes to the forefront of many minds. Tortured and battered souls return from war as different people, not only physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.

Jack Sullivan, an associate professor in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, held a seminar, “The Green Road: A Road to Recovery,” Nov. 2 in the Edward St. John Learning and Teaching Center.

The Green Road is a $5 million, half-mile-long, green corridor that runs along a river going through Walter Reed National Military Medical Center’s campus. The project, which came about in 2010, has been funded by Tom and Kitty Stoner of the TKF Foundation.

It includes a commemorative shaded structure for reflection, a rest and bathroom area and towering trees to shade soldiers reflecting on their reactions to the space.

The original intent for the project was to provide a safe and removed natural pathway for wheelchair bound veterans to safely make their way across the campus. The alternative was and still is the more urban route, where these disabled veterans would have to deal with oncoming traffic.

Former Maryland State Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) attended the ceremony that opened the Road to soldiers and their families during on September 16th, 2016.

According to one of the project’s leaders, Dr. Frederick Foote, M.D., a former Navy doctor and neurologist, the Green Road is meant to “emphasize the idea that we share things with nature.” Soldiers who experienced the horrors of war can, he said, “come in direct contact with wild, untamed nature.”

The goal of the project is twofold; it serves to heal soldiers through the direct interaction with and reflection upon untamed nature, as well as provides both the measured empirical and physical data to then develop new ways to heal soldiers in holistic ways.

The project’s goals highlight the need for both holistic and conventional medicine. These veterans were in need of more than prescription medication and extensive surgeries. This integrative approach is a newer and more innovative way of naturally healing the battered minds of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injuries and depression.

As the research done for the project has shown, this natural pathway has the ability to remove soldiers from their nightmarish realities, if only for an hour or two at a time. This, in turn, heals not only their minds, but their entire bodies.

The presentation itself was an open and public event, catering not only to Professor Sullivan’s landscape architecture students, but also to anyone else interested in the project.

“This is a major step forward in medicine and in civilian care for everybody,” Foote said. “You’ve got pills and surgery [and] organ system medicine, and now this new holistic care. You can say what it is…and you can measure it. You put the two together, and you double the power of medicine.”

Dr. Marni N. Silverman, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at the Uniformed Services University of Health Science, asked students what their reason for interacting with nature was. Students’ responses ranged from being happy, to feeling rejuvenated and relaxed.

Of those who attended, sophomore landscape architecture majors Allison Fields and Greg Remesch said they liked how the presentation coincided with their studies.

Fields, who had previously studied psychology, said she was excited “that they are actually doing scientific studies on this kind of stuff, as well as everything we are going to be doing.”

According to Remesch, he took a special interest in the aspect of “nature and its effect on well-being.”

 

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