The 501c3 Files: TEAM OVERLAND
From the November Ashland Sneak Preview
In 2008, Matthew Havniear deployed as a Marine to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. His company found themselves embroiled daily in heavy firefights. The city was in ruins, mined and dangerous. Upon his return from Afghanistan in 2010, Matt was diagnosed with service connected Post Traumatic Stress, Traumatic Brain Injury and Post Concussion Syndrome. He struggled with the symptoms and searched for healthy outlets, but only found long waits and clinical approaches from doctors. Knowing that he needed to find a better outlet for stress management, he immersed himself in volunteer work. During these first few months back Matt realized that he was benefitting from being part of a team and serving the community but he knew he needed more.
Matt’s late father Dale Havniear, was an avid outdoorsman and taught Matt the importance of staying connected with nature. So Matt made efforts to get out on the land, but mostly only made solo trips. One day Matt was out with a fellow vet driving through the woods when they started talking about the restorative power of the wilderness. It was on this trip that the idea for Team Overland was created. Matt and his friend realized that it was the combination of being part of a team and staying connected to nature that could help vets reintegrate into civilian life. The military teaches you that being part of a team is crucial to survival and there are few opportunities out there to combine teamwork with the healing power of being out in nature in civilian life.
So what is Team Overland? Essentially it is organized outdoor adventures. Overlanding is defined as self-reliant overland travel to remote destinations where the journey is the principal goal. Typically, but not exclusively, it is accomplished by mechanized off-road capable transport (Team Overland prefers Toyota Trucks and 4Runners) and tent camping.
Team Overland provides trips to veterans that are looking for a healthy way to manage their personal stress. They provide camaraderie, encouragement and a support system for veterans suffering from not only mental disorders, but also physically wounded soldiers as well.
After the military, many veterans feel disconnected and alone. They experience a lack of camaraderie as they return to the civilian world. The way you need to work together on these Overland adventures gives vets a way to re-wire their brains. Previous associations of off-trail dusty driving as a potentially life ending trip changes into a fun and exciting way to hang out with friends and to see areas of our beautiful Southern Oregon that most of us don’t get to see.
Matt describes Team Overland in his own words: “We encourage members to positively manage their stress by providing healthy social environments and by planning activities that improve cognitive coping skills. We inspire our team members, and encourage veteran reintegration. On the trail, we work as a team to overcome the obstacles encountered on the way to our destinations. Team Overland is unique in that it is not exclusive to just military members. We want to have an impact on veteran reintegration and we believe that that it is only possible by having an organization with veterans and civilians working together. At Team Overland, we value and lean on our non-military members. We noticed early on that the civilians were passionate about “sharing the burden” of service. We have found that our approach builds bonds between military and non-military members through the shared interest of outdoor adventure and teamwork on the trail.”
In addition to providing these adventures, Team Overland frequently hosts fundraisers for other worthy causes. Their next Overland Adventure is a guided trip to the beautiful Upper Rogue River to one of their favorite and secret spots. Remember, Team Overland is not just for vets, so if you want to find out where their secret spot is, visit them at www.teamoverland.org. Also, we shouldn’t have to say this, but women can obviously be veterans too, and Team Overland has taken groups of all women Overlanding. If you have a warm spot in your heart for a locally grown non-profit that is providing a service that is unique for our veterans. Please visit their site and donate.