How Omar Avila Finds Medicine in Nature
May 25, 2023 | Christensen Arms
It’s scientifically proven that spending time outdoors positively impacts mental health, but can it replace medicine?
For Sgt. Omar “Crispy” Avila, it can—and it has.
Serving Our Country
Omar enrolled in the U.S. Army in 2004. In 2007, he was deployed to Iraq. On May 24, 2007, the vehicle Omar was riding in struck a 200-pound Improvised Explosive Device, or IED. The blast left burns on 75% of his body and resulted in the amputation of his right leg below the knee.
His strength and spirit, however, were unphased.
A Quest for Healing
After retiring from the U.S. Army in 2010, Omar vowed to never let his injuries control his life. Since then, he’s been on a quest for recovery, physical therapy, and spiritual healing−free from dependence on medication to combat the intense emotions tied to his experiences in combat. He wanted his peace to come from the natural world, not a pill.
One day, Omar’s phone rang. When he answered, his friend asked, “Hey, what are you doing this weekend?” Omar didn’t have any plans, so his friend asked him to go hunting.
The night before the hunt, after packing his gear, Omar laid in bed and questioned his decision. He’d made great progress since retiring from the U.S. Army, but he wasn’t comfortable with his injuries.
“I kinda feel like an outcast… I’m not gonna be accepted,” he thought. “I’m not gonna go.”
The next morning, the alarm clock Omar forgot to turn off woke him up bright and early. He thought to himself, “Well, my truck’s packed, everything’s in there… just go. What’s the worst that can happen?”
Within a few minutes, Omar was on the road.
A Shift in Perspective
As his drive transitioned from loud, crowded city streets to the vast, sprawling countryside, Omar felt an inner peace wash over him. To his surprise, he felt comfortable.
“Wow, what’s going on?” he thought.
When he arrived at the lodge, Omar walked up and rang the doorbell. He was greeted with excitement by a man in a wheelchair with no legs. “What’s up, brother?!” the man exclaimed with a huge smile on his face. In an instant, Omar’s perspective changed. He felt a sense of acceptance, belonging.
That night, as was common at this point in his life, Omar couldn’t sleep. He made his way out to the fire pit where he was joined by another guest of the lodge for a drink and conversation.
The man was a retired U.S. Navy SEAL. The conversation flowed as Omar and the man shared intimate details about their combat experiences and life after the military.
At a point in the conversation, the man asked Omar, “How are you doing?”
“I’m doing great,” Omar replied.
Unsatisfied with that answer, the man restated the question, “No, how are you doing?”—this time, gesturing to clarify that he was asking about Omar’s mental health.
That was one of the first times Omar really opened up and shared his true feelings with another person. It was a huge step forward in his healing process.
Omar and his newfound friend continued to talk for hours. Before they knew it, their fellow hunters were coming out of the lodge to get ready to head out into the field.
Omar’s friend approached him and asked him with surprise, “Dude, you been awake the whole night?! What have you been doing?”
“I’ve been with that dude,” Omar replied, pointing to the man he’d talked to all night.
“You mean Chris?” his friend continued.
“Yeah, Chris,” Omar confirmed.
“You know who that is?” his friend questioned intently. “That’s Chris Kyle.”
Up to that point, Omar was completely unaware that he’d had been up all night having an intimate conversation with the legendary American Sniper.
The Experience That Changed Everything
After Omar got ready and walked back outside, Chris informed him, “You’re hunting with me.”
With that, the pair headed to their blind.
Omar and Chris sat, scanned, and talked quietly. Before long, a whitetail buck appeared within range.
“Alright, that’s the one we’re gonna shoot,” Chris whispered to Omar.
Immediately, Omar began shaking. He’d never shot a buck before. In fact, he’d never shot a deer.
“Control your breathing. Get him in your crosshairs,” Omar thought to himself to calm his nerves.
As Omar squeezed the trigger, the shot rang out. He watched in awe as the deer dropped. He’d just harvested his first deer—with Chris Kyle. Excitement overtook the two friends as they high-fived and celebrated Omar’s milestone.
In that moment, something clicked for Omar. It was as if something he hadn’t felt in a long time had suddenly returned.
This was more than hunting. It was healing.
From Passion to Peace
After that unforgettable experience, Omar was hooked. His appetite for learning was insatiable. While his friends went out to shoot pool, he sat at his computer researching his new obsession.
Hunting was no longer a hobby—it was a lifestyle.
In the time that has passed since Omar’s epic hunting experience with Chris Kyle, his passion for hunting and the outdoors has grown. Not only does he hunt personally, he jumps at the opportunity to bring others into the field to experience the healing power of the outdoors the same way he has. To date, he’s hunted with friends, disabled veterans, and Gold Star Families—family members of service members who tragically lost their lives.
Christensen Arms was honored to partner with Omar on the Hunt to Heal documentary. We have a deep appreciation for the sacrifices made by members of the US Armed Forces and their family members, as well as the healing power of the Great Outdoors.