by NPR Taki Telonidis
Substance abuse. Violence. Even thoughts of suicide. These are some of the problems that many veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are struggling with.
Today it's called post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, but it has affected veterans going back much farther. While doctors and researchers put enormous efforts into developing new treatments, one group of veterans in Salt Lake City is finding relief in a very old tradition: a Native American sweat lodge.
If you didn't know to peer over the six-foot brick wall next to a parking lot at , you'd never guess it was there.
On a Friday afternoon, Cal Bench, a Vietnam veteran, is here early, gathering firewood like he does every week for the ceremony that will start in a few hours.
"I went into the service at 18 and I went to Vietnam at 19," Bench says. "And I had no idea how it would change or affect you mentally. The concept that I would carry that around forever was just hard. But I just never had any place to turn. I came here and I was given a blessing."
'Healing Right Down To The Core'
Bench started coming to these sweats in 2005 to cope with anxieties related to his combat experience. He found relief in the sweat, as well as a spiritual connection that has kept him coming back.
This VA is one of just a handful in the country that offers them. A sweat is a ceremony conducted by a Native American spiritual leader in a dome-shaped structure, or lodge. Sweats are common in Indian country. (Full Story)
Images of the Sweat Lodge at the
Native American Church of Virginia a Sanctuary on the Trail