Thrills Before Pills: How One Group Of Veterans Is Tackling PTS

According to data from the Veterans Administration, there are approximately 68,000 veterans in the United States that are diagnosed with opioid-use disorders. It’s a deadly problem, with the veteran demographic twice as likely to die from accidental opioid overdose than their non-veteran counterparts.

The problem stems from a system of over-prescription and lazy medicine that starts while they are still on active duty, leaving many veterans feeling as if it is the only solution for the root problem of chronic pain and/or post traumatic stress. But one group of special operations veterans has adopted a “thrills not pills” philosophy in an attempt to address their symptoms in a more natural, healthier way.

So they packed up their mountaineering equipment, skis, and snowboards and headed to some of the most austere terrain on earth. Their goal? To promote healing and document it for others to be inspired by.

According to the Kickstarter campaign for their documentary, titled Big Mountain Heroes, their goal is “to inspire people by capturing a seven-day journey into the French, Swiss and Italian Alps by five United States Special Operations veterans who share a love of the outdoors and adventure.”

Isaiah Burkhart served in the 3rd Ranger Battalion as a sniper, and is one of the veterans who went on the trip. “Maybe there’s other stuff out there that you can do, that can help you with the damage,” he said in an interview. “Every time I go outside, I put one more stitch in the wound.”

The footage itself was captured by a rock star duo of filmmakers. Nick Cahill, an accomplished cinematographer who has had his work featured on the cover of National Geographic, is filming the documentary. Alongside him is Matt Hardy, who is a FAA certified drone pilot and has done work for the infamous adventure filmmaker Warren Miller. With talent like that, the documentary is sure to be as powerful as it is beautiful.

At the time this article was written, they have raised just shy of 10,000 dollars of the 25,000 needed for post-production costs. The fundraising campaign runs through May 1st, and because it is an “all or nothing” crowd funding campaign – they’ll need to reach their goal to get any of the money. To donate, head over to: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/909011398/big-mountain-heroes-documentary/description

A still taken during principal photography for the documentary Big Mountain Heroes. 

A still taken during principal photography for the documentary Big Mountain Heroes. 

Marty Skovlund, Jr.