A new fight

No Barriers, Raytheon help 14 veterans with disabilities reclaim their lives

A New Flight

Fourteen veterans completed an unforgettable journey on the 2016 Raytheon-No Barriers Grand Canyon Veteran Wilderness Expedition, a trek which included whitewater rafting the Colorado River, hiking and team building activities. (Download High Resolution Photo)

After years in the U.S. Army and deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, Josh Houston was looking for peace. He found some at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Houston, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, was among 14 veterans with disabilities who took part in the No Barriers Veteran Wilderness Expedition. The seven-day excursion gives the veterans both a physical challenge and a chance to speak about what they've endured with others who understand.

"Since being in the canyon, I haven't felt irritable or angry, so I've made a breakthrough," said Houston, whose responsibilities included carrying the caskets of friends killed in combat onto the planes that took them back to the United States.

Houston and his fellow veterans emerged from the Grand Canyon's Bright Angel Trail on Oct. 22, after a weeklong journey of hiking, camping, whitewater rafting and team-building exercises. This is the third year Raytheon has sponsored the excursion.

Josh Houston

Throughout the expedition, Josh Houston found a sense of inner peace – a major feat since being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Approximately 2.5 million veterans have served in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that anywhere from 11 to 20 percent of veterans from that era have been diagnosed with PTSD, a mental-health disorder with wide-ranging symptoms including flashbacks, anger and constant fear of danger. More than 5,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans were killed in action, and tens of thousands were injured, according to a 2014 Congressional Budget Office report.

Through No Barriers, these former brothers and sisters in arms re-learn what it is to work as a team. Along the way, each participant learns to use adversity as a motivator and achieve goals, whether it's powering up a hill or opening up about life after the military. 

For Demecia Rogers, who served as a signal support systems specialist in the U.S. Army's elite 101st Airborne Division in Iraq, the trek encouraged her to take on other tough tasks in life. 

"I can make a trip down the Grand Canyon. That's a big achievement," said Rogers, of Bedford, Texas. "This experience will help me achieve some of my goals because I'll have a bigger network supporting me – not only No Barriers staff, but also from my fellow veterans on this trip."

Colorado River

Vance Combs, left, and Demecia Rogers, right, share a moment amid the peaceful rambling of the Colorado River. They took part in the Raytheon–No Barriers Grand Canyon Veteran Wilderness Expedition, a weeklong trek that included hiking, rafting and team-building exercises.

Many like Rogers and Houston have difficulty returning to civilian life. For Houston, the chance to reflect without distraction was invaluable. 

"It’s given me space to think about who I am, who I want to be and how I get there," he said. "The stress of everyday life is nonexistent out here.”

Meet the 2016 Veteran Wilderness Expedition team:

Published On: 08/09/2016
Last Updated: 07/16/2018