Vets who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq have returned to the States to fight a new enemy — deadly Burmese pythons that slither through the Florida Everglades.
According to ABC News, an outdoors group of 30 vets called “Swamp Apes” has formed as an outlet for vets to overcome PTSD.
Tucked away in the muggy waters of the Florida Everglades National Park, the non-Florida native Burmese pythons have grown rapidly in population and are beginning to devour local animals and even a dog in 2013. Since hunting is illegal in the park, the war vets are using this as an opportunity to engage in hand-to-hand combat with the enormous snakes to facilitate growth and assimilation after war.
Park spokesperson Linda Friar explained to ABC News that U.S. vet Tom Rahill founded the group six years ago to get fellow veterans back into the groove of American life through indulging in wild, yet controlled, adventure.
These park missions have ranged from removing poisonous plants to dangerous animals, but the groups’ most recent mission is to capture and remove the pythons.
According to the report, experts studying the snake situation say there are an estimated 100,000 pythons living in the Everglades. Last year the park recruited 1,500 volunteers to expel the snakes — but only 68 snakes were captured.
Swamp Apes, on the other hand, has captured 150 snakes since 2008, and Rahill plans that the group of vets will bag 200 snakes this coming year.
According to the report, Rahill attributes the groups’ success at capturing the slithering snakes to the dedicated focus only an American soldier possess. And if a vet returns home suffering with PTSD, their dedication and hyper-vigilance is even more acute. (RELATED: Researchers Come Close To Discovering What Causes PTSD)
“When they get back home, a need for a mission is still ingrained in them, but they don’t have one,” Rahill said, explaining that working in the Everglades returns that purpose. “When one of them tells me, ‘I don’t have nightmares any more, Tom,’ I get tears in my eyes.”