SSG Louis Swift, US Army (Ret) on Overcoming His Gremlins

No Barriers USA provides free outdoor programming for veterans with disabilities (Warriors). Our goal is to unleash the power of the human spirit, to inspire Warriors to give their best back to themselves, their communities, and the world.

Veteran stories of inspiration, like Naomi’s below, give you a peek into the incredible amount of change that can happen on our programs as veterans return to civilian life. 

Learn more about Warriors programming opportunities here. Keep reading for our next edition of veteran stories and inspiration!

It’s not often that we get to welcome a veteran who served in the Vietnam War on an expedition. 

SSG Louis Swift, US Army (Ret), a spritely 70, was an incredible addition to our 5-Day Cobank Expedition in late June. Between scaling mountains, climbing rock faces, and facing raging rapids, Louis kept the group laughing and invigorated. His veteran stories from his 24 years of service reminded us all that so much of what we appreciate today was born on the backs of generations prior.

“I had a lot of gremlins that I suppressed from my past that I was able to bring out and put to rest.”


Louis’ inspiring Warriors story

Louis’s tales transcended decades, giving younger Warriors the chance to feel a part of an effort greater than themselves. After serving in Vietnam for the late ’60s, Louis, unfortunately, lost his left leg. “Back then, they didn’t know what to do with blown up arteries. They just cut your leg off.” Despite these physical setbacks, Louis overcame. He returned to service in 1991 and served an additional 20 years, with deployments spanning Bosnia, Kosovo, and later, Iraq.

SSG Louis Swift, US Army (Ret) on No Barriers expedition“The rules of engagement are a lot different now than back in Vietnam. They said: ‘Here’s a gun, here’s an aircraft. You’re a cobra!’ It was balls out every day. It was relentless. You always considered yourself in combat. We didn’t even wear earplugs.
But peacekeeping missions are very different. There were gunshots, but they weren’t threatening. They were celebratory. And later, in Iraq, you couldn’t just shoot. You’d have to get permission to shoot back.”

Facing the horrors from his 3,000+ hours of combat was an unexpected, but welcome, result of the long, deep campfire conversations on his Warriors expedition. “You had to open up, you had to tell it. Lots of people connected around those campfires. Black, white, old, young. Navy, Marines, Army.

It was exciting.”

No Barriers Basecamp Program in Colorado

Through all the conversations, Louis came to realize how—and why—some of his raw emotions were swept under the rug. “The world is so active, there’s just so much going on so fast, you kinda start to forget about it. I built cars, motorcycles, was a cop, had a family. I’m still working. You become so busy in life that some of this stuff, like needless death, kind of gnaws at you.” Not anymore. 

“I had a lot of gremlins that I suppressed from my past that I was able to bring out and put to rest.”

Louis not only walked away with new coping strategies but friends for life. “Everything we started, we completed. I did the five-mile march, but my leg hurt a little bit, and my cohort was there for me. It was like we rehearsed it. I can’t say enough about ‘em. Our connection can’t be broken.”

How YOU can get involved

We hope these veteran stories inspire you. Whether you’re a supporter of veterans’ growth, are a veteran yourself, or are looking to invest your money in meaningful ways, there are myriad ways to get involved with our No Barriers Warriors.
SSG Louis Swift, US Army (Ret) on No Barriers expedition with his group

  • Are YOU a veteran with a disability? Apply now for a 2020 expedition and step towards living a No Barriers Life. Did we mention they’re free?
  • Join our Walk with the Warriors event this year. Date TBD. ???? Sign up to receive details on this nationwide-event.
  • Share this article with a veteran you know! This story might make them feel connected, understood, or like they’re chatting with an old friend—ALL integral to healing!
  • Stay up to date on current Warriors expeditions. Our Facebook page shares the latest news, updates, and veteran stories.

Your donations help write veteran stories

Help us help veterans work through trauma and give their best to the world. With time, space, connection, and thoughtful reflection on a No Barriers expedition, veterans with disabilities come away with a renewed sense of purpose. If veteran stories like these inspire you, then… 

August 16, 2019
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