Stacy Bare is the type of guy you’d call “extra”: he’s a giant dude with a giant personality. And things got rough for him when he got back from his tour as an Army Ranger in Iraq: even though he was terrified of becoming another veteran statistic, he slipped into drug use and, eventually, became suicidal. The turnaround came when one of the guys he enlisted with invited him out climbing.
Bare is now an adventurer and an outdoorsman. He was given the prestigious National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Award in 2014 for his work with the organization he founded with fellow vet Nick Watson, Veteran Expeditions.
Adventure Not War, the latest film from Stept Studios, follows a particularly intense recent expedition Bare took with fellow veteran friends back to Iraq to go skiing and climbing. The scars of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are not gone for many veterans, who still struggle with what they saw, what they did, and who they lost. But travel and adventure, it seems, serve a role in helping to heal some of those wounds.
One of the vets, Matthew Griffin, says, “They say people do things out of two major emotions, one is love, one is fear. I think all of us have been exposed to the fear-based lifestyle for the past 15 or 16 years. How we’ve gone to foreign countries we’ve invaded, we’ve caused war, we’ve lost our soldiers, we’ve had collateral damage, caused massive degradation of the US foreign policy abroad, and it’s all been based on fear. We’re scared of something happening to us. Versus being able to go out to a foreign country, create a relationship with somebody, have an adventure, do something positive, build a connection, and inspire others to do the same.”
The movie is short — it’s only 25 minutes — but it is intense and moving. Iraq was not a place for fun and adventure when these vets were there last, but the country they find as travelers is different from the one they saw as warriors.
Bare says, “When we see on TV and on the news a war in Iraq and Mosul, certainly we need to pay attention to that, but we also need to think to ourselves, there’s a tremendous amount of beauty that’s currently being masked by this war. And more importantly, if we could focus on that beauty, how many wars could we avoid entirely because we’ve also built up these bridges of cultural understanding through late-night dancing in a mountain hut after a long day of chasing powder?”
Give the whole film a watch — it’s a beautiful meditation on war, travel, loss, and recovery, and it’ll give you some hope for a world that can often feel totally broken.