With a large percent of military veterans facing struggles such as substance abuse, Traumatic Brain Injuries and Post Traumatic Stress, and the Department of Veterans Affairs struggling to provide the help that is necessary for returning service members, Nick Watson left his secure career to pursue helping military veterans through the organization he co-founded, Veterans Expeditions. Nick found that being outdoors helped him immensely after his time in the military and he believed that if he were able to share outdoor experiences with veterans, he could create a supportive community, help veterans find jobs in the outdoors, and ultimately help to reduce the effects of military related trauma. Despite setbacks and struggles that oftentimes accompany starting a nonprofit; Nick has happily devoted his life to helping military veterans in all of the ways he knows how.
Nick Watson’s personal mission is simple; help as many veterans as he can. Mr. Watson is an avid and passionate outdoorsman and truly enjoys teaching veterans new activities such as mountain biking, rock or ice climbing, mountaineering, etc. These activities are entertaining for the individuals, but they are just the medium that creates this community that gives individuals a sense of purpose, goals and missions to accomplish, and supportive friendships that exist outside of Veterans Expeditions trips.
Since 2010, when Nick Watson co-founded Veterans Expeditions, he has had over 2,500 veterans attend trips. Some individuals that attend trips like to just get outside with likeminded people from similar backgrounds (the military), some individuals use Veterans Expeditions as a healthy healing mechanism helping them recover from trauma that can come from military service. Some individuals want to try a new outdoor activity that often times is expensive and technical in nature and hard to break into without hiring a guide, so Veterans Expeditions is a free way for people to use the equipment and learn from the leaders who run the events. Also Nick has been working professionally in the outdoors for over 20 years and because of this he has a vast network of outdoor professionals he stays in contact with. Through Nick’s network he has also helped veterans find jobs in the outdoors.
I admire Nick’s dedication and perseverance towards his goals, which are always selfless in nature. Nick is always trying to find new ways he can help people and how to improve the organization he has built. When a setback occurs, he takes them as a lesson and is always pushing forward.
Currently Veterans Expeditions is able to serve so many veterans each year because of how efficient the organization is at using its funds. If Veterans Expeditions received $50,000 the organization would be able to purchase more gear necessary to get more veterans outside, resulting in helping several hundred more veterans each year. Veterans Expeditions is also planning an all-female veteran self-guided climb of Denali in Alaska in 2019. I believe a sizeable amount of the $50,000 would go towards purchasing gear for this expedition to help reduce the costs on the individuals that are going to be on this expedition.
My first trip as a participant was in February 2014 and I immediately knew that I wanted to get more involved and help Nick as much as I feasibly could, because I saw what the organization does for people. I have been actively volunteering for three years for Veterans Expeditions because I know that this organization truly makes a positive impact on hundreds of people’s lives every year.