Stephen Simmons, an Army war veteran, has not had it easy since he’s returned home from Iraq in 2008. He had been through a lot while he was deployed and wound up suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)– something that many other soldiers come home with.
His PTSD made it very challenging for him to adapt to civilian life. Everyday tasks that were simple for most people were a struggle for him, and each day felt like an uphill battle that he was never going to win.
Eventually, he wound up adopting a dog named Puppi, and the two of them began traveling together. Simmons soon realized that PTSD is not just in people’s minds and that there are certain things you can do to positively impact how your body responds to stress and anxiety.
Traveling became one of those things. Simmons and Puppi lived out of his jeep in the mountains of Southern Oregon while they explored the wilderness together. His new-found love for adventure has helped him restore his natural sense of self.
One day soon after, he and Simmons were sitting outside when a homeless girl with a bunch of kittens came up to him. She said she was trying to give away her kittens. She then placed eight-week-old Burma in his arms, and in that moment, he knew he had to adopt this kitten. So he did!
Burma joined Simmons and Puppi on their travels and the three of them have explored all kinds of places and climbed multiple mountains. Burma was born in a tent, so he was already used to being outdoors. He adapted to his new surroundings very well.
Simmons documents their “adventure therapy” with pictures hoping to inspire other veterans to learn about and use adventure therapy to help treat their PTSD.
Luckily, Simmons is doing much better, and he has his two furry best friends to thank for that.
“Aside from providing unconditional love, and making the sights, sounds and smells of the wilderness more meaningful, Puppi and Burma are a responsibility,” Simmons told Huffington Post. “I care for them as much as or more than I care for myself. During especially difficult times, I would not have gotten up or gone out for myself, but I would do it for them. Puppi and Burma have been a blessing in every way.”
Learn more about this incredible story in the video below!