Support grows for proposed Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument

Albuquerque Express
4/1/2012

Veterans said declaring the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks region a national monument could help vets coping with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

According to the Unites States Department of Veterans Affairs, between seven and eight percent of people are estimated to have experienced PTSD in their lives, and the chances are among the greatest in veterans.

Some veterans said that a key method of dealing with the condition once they’re back home is to spend time in the great outdoors.

“It’s very important to me to be able to decompress a little bit,” Vietnam veteran Peter Ossorio said.

Ossorio’s daughter is an Iraq war veteran.

She’s one of the nearly 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars suffering from PTSD, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Ossorio said that a coping method for his daughter is spend time outdoors and absorb the serenity of the desert.

“One of the things that she likes to do most that she wasn’t able to do, frankly, when she wasn’t on her meds, was to go camping,” Ossorio said.

Ossorio said that peaceful natural landscapes like the Organ Mountain-Desert Peaks allows veterans to distance themselves from the stresses of combat—especially the loud noises.

“I first became a conservationist after spending time in Vietnam, when I saw some of the damage by plows and bombs and bases,” Ossorio said.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs agreed that spending time outdoors is a positive way for vets to cope with symptoms of PTSD.

Helping veterans with the disorder is one of the reasons why local vets are teaming up to gain support for naming this area along the Organ mountains a national monument.

“These are delicate ecosystems up here and they need to be protected,” veteran Bernie Digman said.

“That’s really the only practical way of ensuring that this remains available for everybody to enjoy and not just a privileged few,” Ossorio said.