ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – For the past three years, Big Country Military Combat Veterans have been given an opportunity thanks to the Abilene Vet Center and Abilene Bow Hunter’s Association.

A group of Abilene-area veterans participated in the third annual ‘Foam is our Friend’ archery match. The competition tests their archery skills while also helping them cope with post-traumatic stress.

“All the branches of service are out here, so we’re always competing no matter what,” said U.S. Marine Corps Veteran Manny Rios.

“It doesn’t matter what year you served or what era, or what conflict or war you can still make connections with each other,” U.S. Air Force Veteran Bill Guidera added.

Aside from the competition, archery has given these military vets another shot at coping with PTSD following their time serving our country.

“Everything disappears in life. You’re just in the moment right then and there, and so for me, the hands-on archery being able to be out here, that’s basically what it is for me,” U.S. Army Veteran Daniel Winegeart shared.

Winegeart battles with PTSD due to his experiences while on deployment overseas, and he shared that sudden noises and gunfire remind him of that time. Having gone through many types of treatment, Winegeart explained how using a compound bow vs. a firearm is beneficial for him.

“The only loud thing that you might hear is when the arrow hits the target. Other than that, I mean, it’s quiet, so you don’t have to worry about the stress and anxiety of rounds or anything like that going off,” Winegeart said.

Marine Vet Manny Rios, who recently retired after almost 24 years, said it’s this archery program that’s given him a new lease on life

“There’s no telling where I would be, and they’ve opened up the door, and they’ve made it possible for someone like me that didn’t like talking to people, didn’t like opening up. They made it possible for me to do that. I’m not so angry. I’m not so irritated as much. I’m not about to lose it on, you know, certain situations,” Rios shared.