When Jet Garner socializes with fellow combat veterans who are studying at UC Berkeley, the conversation often turns to battlefield memories he’d rather forget.

But while whitewater rafting on the American River last summer, Garner and other members of the campus’s Cal Veterans Group were so busy having fun that the topic of their military past barely came up.

“It felt like we were really living in the moment,” says Garner, a veteran of two tours in Afghanistan who is majoring in political economy at UC Berkeley. “It really felt like we were moving on beyond our hang-ups.”

Garner, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), is among two dozen UC Berkeley student veterans whose psychological and physiological response to the awesomeness of big nature is being studied as part of a multi-year UC Berkeley research project.

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