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'Set your course' | Healing PTSD through sailing, fellowship

American Odysseus Sailing Foundation was founded by veterans for veterans and is also expanding to help First Responders, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

GALVESTON, Texas — There's something to be said for those that are willing to go the extra mile to make sure others are taken care of and, as we all know, that's even more evident in the military community.

Cameron Albin, the co-founder and executive director of American Odysseus Foundation, said he's looking to do just that by bringing veterans and first responders aboard his sailboat for a chance to reclaim their lives.

Especially those suffering in silence.

"You've got no more excuses. You can't, assuming you don't bring it with you, whatever you've got going on in your head, you can't make it go away with alcohol, you can't distract it away because you get far enough off shore, you won't have internet."

The American Odysseus Foundation, also known as AMOD, offers many different programs, including coastal sailing, offshore sailing and an upcoming Ocean Globe Race in 2023. According to their website, from March to August they offer veterans day trips on Galveston Bay for up to six warrior crew members. They also offer adventures down the Bay with an overnight stay in Galveston for up to four people.

"I guess the best way to put it is I never found my niche in the world after I got out," said Mark Vital, who  I did 8 years in the Marine Corp, to 2004 to 2005 I was deployed to Iraq and I have gone through jobs like water, never finding that one spot where I fit."

Vital said an overnight trip to Galveston in February 2021 changed his life forever and he knew, on the way back in the middle of the ocean, he'd leave life in Seattle behind and commit his life to the mission of AMOD.

"I was just laying in the cockpit just looking out at the water and I just knew, that's when it really hit me, where this was the first time in years that I'm not stressed out and I'm actually relaxed, breathing and enjoying life again," he said.

Albin said he knows this works and he's living proof that it does, having lived aboard his boat for three years and sailing with his dog. He said, however, in order for it to work, those interested have to make the decision to do it.

He said through adventure therapy and sailing, veterans will see that things really are beautiful and worth sticking around for but you have to get outside your comfort zone.

"I wouldn't be here right now if I hadn't done this. I'd be dead or in jail if I hadn't done this," Albin admitted. "One one hand, you have to deal with yourself and get comfortable with yourself but you don't get to do it if you don't get off your couch."

Vital agreed and said that without this program, he'd likely be dead.

"I don't think I'd be here. I would decide that one day, I am going to go to sleep and not wake up, that's how big this was for me," he said.

No one is promising a quick fix because it does take work. Instead, Albin and his crew are offering a chance to set sail, to believe and to see the adventures this world has to offer after military life.

He also said, for veterans suffering in silence, to give them a chance.

"We joined the military to be warriors to make a difference in life and this is a way to make a difference in life again," he said. "Serving your country, being a Marine, being a soldier, being a sailor, being an Airmen, being a member of the United States Coast Guard are great things but do not let it be the last great thing you do."

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