BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “Veterans aren’t victims, we’re do-ers, we’re achievers.”

There are many different obstacles that soldiers face when they come back home from war. A national organization, called Higher Ground, helps connect our nation’s heroes with one another with activities, helping them conquer these challenges together.

After our nation’s heroes put their lives on the line to defend our democracy–for many-their battles were not left behind on the battlefield.

“The reality is, there is polytrauma, there’s PTSD, there’s a traumatic brain injury, there’s military sexual trauma, and that’s not a barrier,” said Roger Woodworth, the Chair of Higher Ground New York. “This is about belonging without barriers.”

Higher Ground is an organization that started out in Idaho, aimed at serving the ones who have served us. It connects veterans, including heroes right here in Buffalo and creates bonds through recreational therapeutic activities.

“Transition is always a challenge, at one time, you had a complete support structure, your men, your comrades, and your associates around you, and then you’re stripped away of that whole experience,” said Terry McGuire. “Sometimes it’s a little tough transitioning and getting back and allowing people to be themselves again.”

Terry McGuire, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, went rock climbing in the Hudson Valley with a dozen of veterans of all different ages through Higher Ground. During their trip, he felt the sense of connection that he used to have in the service twenty years ago.

“To commiserate and talk about our experiences and our transition experiences is a way–as a group to get back on the same page and it was great to have that kind of support system again,” said McGuire.

The organization offers week or day-long excursions–from horseback riding to mountaineering, to snowsports, to snow sports-uniting, and giving veterans a sense of belonging.

It’s a powerful impact that Marlene Roll, a board member of Higher Ground, says she’s grateful to see.

“I’ve gotten to see first-hand several people who came in one way, and I wish I’d taken a picture of the first day because, by the time they left the program, they not only acted different, they looked different. They were happy,” said Roll.

The WNY hometown heroes, I spoke to veterans to get involved and to seek that connection back here at home.

“We have a great support structure here in Western New York for veterans, and it’s just so easy to take care of those veterans that are in need. Just reach out, ask them for help,” said McGuire.

All of the programs that are offered through Higher Ground are free for veterans and their families. For more information and to see a list of what programs are offered, visit their website here.

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.