James Bishop

What were some of your expectations prior to the expedition?

I did not fully understand the mission of No Barriers prior to this journey, which in hindsight made the experience more effective for me.

During the experience, what was the greatest challenge you faced and how did you overcome it?

My greatest challenge was the first No Barriers flag exercise, which started 20 miles down the Colorado River. We stopped to do a three-quarters of a mile walk/climb up the North Canyon, followed by a break at a shaded pool of water. The group was asked to think about and address “past” events and then write them on the No Barriers flag. After writing our thoughts, no one was allowed to speak as we made our way back down the trail. It was a long, quiet walk back to base camp, which I spent reflecting on several difficult events in my life. After the hike, we continued on our rafting trip down the river. It was a quiet afternoon for all of us. Later that evening, each team member shared what they wrote on the flag. The flag exercise helped us reflect on dark experiences and sharing them brought us closer as a group.

Describe your best day on the journey.

My best days were those spent in the paddle boat. I was part of a team. We worked together to move forward, navigating the rapids and sharing experiences as we traveled down 90 miles of the Colorado River.

Did you experience a pivotal moment of change or a gradual transformation during the expedition?

Sharing my past, present and future goals during the flag exercises helped me make a gradual transformation during the expedition. I’ve been working on my emotional and physical issues for 10 years, while some of the veterans are just getting out of the military. I know the long journey they have ahead.

We were each asked to complete a SMART Goals pledge at the end of the expedition. This pledge and follow up meetings with the No Barriers engagement coordinator has helped me recognize my daily challenges and set future goals for success.

How has the No Barriers experience changed your life?

This experience was the final push I needed to help me overcome obstacles in my life. I now have a better relationship with my family, less anger when memory flashes occur and a lot less anxiety. When driving down narrow streets, I don’t look for IEDs, RPGs or ambushes, instead I find myself taking in the scenery — kids chasing balls, cars backing up and animals darting out in front of me.