COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — A program in Colorado is helping veterans and active service members form friendships and have fun while shooting archery.
It's happening at the Archery School of the Rockies in Colorado Springs. where veterans founded a program for fellow vets called Threshold Archery.
Every week, at least a couple dozen veterans and active duty service members go to the range to improve their archery skills and build community with others.
William Bowman founded the nonprofit in 2016. He said he wanted to create a community for veterans to get better at archery and reduce the cost of shooting. The program is also aimed at helping veterans when they get out of the military.
"Our big concern is that when veterans get out, and they don't really have a place to connect, they almost get ostracized within the community. They don't really fit in," said Bowman, a U.S. Army veteran who served for 20 years. "I think the biggest thing is integrating veterans into this community and them being a part of the community. The archery community itself is a tight-knit community, and it's very accepting and supportive. It just lends itself to creating this atmosphere for veterans to enjoy it here."
Ted Kibel served in the army for 27 years and got help by shooting with other veterans for about a year.
"It's been relaxing, and it's also been revealing. Sometimes you can talk to a veteran that you can't talk to somebody else about certain things that happened in the past," said Kibel. "It does help quite a bit to talk to veterans. You don't feel pressured or rushed, plus my shooting has gotten better, and my equipment has gotten better."
Michael Poplawski is a coach with the program. He's helping archers improve their skills, including one person with impaired vision.
"He's 90% blind. I mean, I'm shooting for him. So for me, it's an honor to be his eyes for him," said Poplawski, who served in the Air Force for 24 years. "It doesn't matter what service you came from. You're part of the brotherhood. It gives us unity and purpose when we look past our barriers and have something in common."
The community formed at the range also helps veterans know they are not alone.
"These guys — they have fun, and they get out there, they laugh really hard, they have a good time," said Bowman.
"If we can get it out to the communities and get the veterans out here if they need help in one way or another, we'll help them. I guarantee it works," said Kibel.
Veterans said that if you want to be good at archery, you have to take your mind off what's happening outside of the range and focus on the target. It's another reason why this can be therapeutic for those who served.
The program is free for veterans, and they'll pay for a coaching certificate for those who want to teach others. The group meets every Thursday evening from 6-8 p.m.
Ashley Portillo at KOAA first reported this story.