After a 14-year career in the US Army infantry with heavy combat in Afghanistan, Mark Oravsky was on the brink of suicide, seeking a place where he could “dig a hole and scream in to it.” In his last attempt to keep his finger off the trigger he discovered a Rite of Return to wholeness and sense of belonging in the world as ancient as war itself.

Here is his story…

Having experienced the true welcoming home that is every warrior’s birthright, Mark began piloting a 12-day ceremony of return for veterans with the guidance and support of the School of Lost Borders, with an independent study to evaluate program efficacy by Seattle University.

Results from the independent study are showing unprecedented promise in establishing a more holistic understanding of what we as a culture are willing to accept as ‘military transition.’

Armed with the empirical evidence of veteran transformation, quantitative data to back it up, and a team crazy enough to believe there is a better way,

VeteranRites has crossed the threshold.

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veteran rites

The mission of VeteranRites is to provide circles of return where prior service members are initiated back to their whole selves in the presence of authentic and affirming community. Circles can be any ceremony, ritual, performance, activity, or practice that empowers veterans to enjoy and deploy the unique gifts they have to share with the world. We value cultivation and participation above pathology.

Veteran Rites holds space and honors everyone’s individual journey, regardless of ability, combat experience, military service, age, race, ethnicity, national origin, gender identity, sexual, religious, political, or spiritual preference.

That’s right. You ARE in fact a snowflake. A badass, playful, hilarious, thoughtful, creative, tender, adventurous, irreverent, nurturing, sometimes selfish, often selfless, flawsome warrior. CLAIM IT.


“I was able to accomplish more there and kind of come to closure and peace...than I was able to with years and years of trying to see therapists or go to group therapy.”
— Initiated Veteran, Veterans Rite of Return

Veterans rite of return at a glance

  • 24 veterans and one civilian TRULY initiated home through two 12-day Rite of Return ceremonies in the wildnerness and a rite of passage pilot.

  • Two-year independent study with pre and post cortisol measurements published in the flagship journal of the American Counseling Association.

    Greenleaf, A. T., Williams, J. M., Roessger, K. M., & Motsenbocker, J. (In press). Effects of a rites of passage ceremony on veterans’ well-being. Journal of Counseling & Development.

  • Guided participants suffering from Post Traumatic Stress, Suicidal Ideation, Military Sexual Trauma, Traumatic Brain Injury, Alcoholism, Moral Injury, Survivor’s Guilt, Combat-Related Disabilities, Depression, Isolation, Type 1 Diabetes, Racism, Sexism, Ageism, Homelessness, and Permanent Blindness.

  • A place of belonging for all veterans of every era, including women, minority, and lgtbtq warriors.

  • Documentary Film forthcoming from Warrior Films by Academy Award nominated documentarian Frederick Marx (Hoop Dreams).

  • Registered Non-Profit Corporation (DE) with primary operations in WA State.

  • Program guidance and support through the School of Lost Borders, offering world class rites of passage for 35 years.

  • Leadership and guides balanced with female and male, veteran and civilian.

  • A lifeline for individuals and families with potential as a referral source by VSOs, Therapists, Service Providers, Governmental, Corporate, Civic, Faith-Based, Arts, or Community-Based Organizations.

  • Veterans Rite of Returns are scheduled for April 18-29, 2020 and June 17 -28, 2020 in Eastern WA with scalable and multi-modal opportunities to be announced soon.