AZT VETS Program Featured in Tucson Weekly

Caring for our military veterans is an awesome responsibility, particularly toward vets who may be dealing with the after-effects of combat or other stressful service, and while we might think of the Veterans Health Administration as the vehicle for that care, there are other ways to help.

That is where the Arizona Trail Association (ATA) enters the picture.

For nearly two years, the ATA, a nonprofit established in 1994 to manage the 800-mile Arizona National Scenic Trail (AZT), has administered a program called Veteran Engagement & Trail Stewardship (VETS) designed to help vets enjoy the healing qualities of Arizona’s natural wonders.

“There’s a nature-based therapy aspect the VA healthcare system has yet to recognize that could offset costs of prescription medications, hospitalization and help reduce the suicide rate,” said Michael “Chappy” Chappell, who has led VETS since February 2021. “Let’s just call it what it is: Nature’s therapy. Nature is the perfect prescription.”

Chappell is a Tucson native and Navy veteran who served from 1999 to 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. As a civilian, he has a rich and varied career working as an EMT and in veterinary medicine. More recently, Chappell worked for several outdoor businesses in the Tucson area until the COVID-19 pandemic set him on a search for a new career.

He has found his true calling though, helping his brothers and sisters in arms as they perform a public service, building and maintaining an iconic Arizona attraction.


Read the complete article online here.