Legacy of 9/11: Utah veteran develops program to help others heal from the wounds of war

Sep 10, 2021, 10:31 PM | Updated: Sep 11, 2021, 4:38 pm

FARMINGTON, Utah — Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, an entire generation of men and women fought the war on terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Many came home with the unseen psychological and emotional scars of war. 

That part of the mission continues every day for many Utah veterans.

“If you can get out that front door, go on a hike with people and talk, you can really make a difference,” said retired Army Sgt. Josh Hansen.

Hansen has taken that first step out the door with fellow veterans the past seven years as part of a program he cofounded called Continue Mission.

That first step is critical for veterans who may isolate themselves.

Hansen knows; he was struggling when he came home from the Iraq War.

“I still really couldn’t function well,” he said. “I had a traumatic brain injury, neck and back injuries, so a lot of my recovery, I needed help just to even live.”

The day the Twin Towers fell, Josh Hansen was a 30-year-old civilian.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” he said.

When he got home from work that night, he told his wifhe had to do something to help.

“I really feel I need to join the military this time,” he told his wifeMy whole family has served in the military clear back to World War I.”

The attacks on American soil compelled him to serve.

“I went down and signed up after 9/11 because I was so affected by it,” said Hansen.

In battle in Iraq, Hansen was an IED hunter, tasked with finding roadside bombs.

“That was the main killer of our men and women overseas,” he said. “But, it was so rewarding, as well, because every bomb I pulled off the road was three lives saved from death or injury.”

But, six men in his unit were killed. 

During his second tour, his vehicle was rocked by bombs repeatedly.

After multiple injuries, he was flown out of Iraq in 2007.

“I spent three months in the hospital, years recovering, and it was devastating,” said Hansen.

In addition to his physical injuries, Hansen came home with post-traumatic stress.

“Being here, while the other men were still in the battle, was difficult,” he said.

He slipped into depression, felt like a burden on his family, and considered taking his own life.

But, as he thought about that, “One of my soldiers that I lead during combat died by suicide,” he said.

Three others had already taken their lives.

That was his wake up call.

“We supported each other overseas,” said Hansen. “We need to start taking care of each other here at home.”

So, he started a program called Continue Mission, with the motto: “No veteran left behind.”

“We developed that program after my healing,” said Hansen.

He started calling other vets, urging them to get out and stay active.

When Hansen started Continue Mission in 2014, it served 15 veterans.

In 2019, more than 3,500 veterans joined in on 160 events — everything from hiking, pickle ball and cross country skiing, to family picnics.

“He saved my life, for sure,” said Garrett McTear, an Army veteran.

Continue Mission helps guide veterans, like McTear, down a path of healthy living, exercise and avoidance of drugs and alcohol.

McTear was in high school on September 11, 2001.

“I couldn’t wait until I finished high school to get in,” he said.

By 2004, he was an Army Ranger in Iraq.

“A team that was going after high-value targets,” he said.

He’s proud of his service, but he was wounded in an ambush.

“For much of my 20s, I was struggling a lot, mentally and emotionally,” he said.

He found healing at the Salt Lake VA, and met Josh Hansen there.

“He’s such a good motivator,” said McTear. “I got out. I was enjoying the outdoors, and that really was the therapy I needed. It turned my life around.”

The two men didn’t serve together, but McTear said, “(Hansen) treats me like a brother in arms, and I see him the same way.”

Continue Mission includes spouses and families in many activities because that helps the healing.

“There are ups and downs, but there are more ups than downs,” said McTear.

That’s the way it goes on Continue Mission.

“We need to let veterans know that we’re here for them and take care of one another here at home,” said Hansen.
KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Legacy of 9/11

SHANKSVILLE, PA - SEPTEMBER 11: U.S. first lady Jill Biden speaks during a ceremony commemorating t...

Jill Biden shares memories of Sept. 11 as wife, sister, more

The first lady recalls in an Associated Press interview how "scared to death" she was that her sister Bonny Jacobs, a United Airlines flight attendant, was on one of the hijacked planes that crashed in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
22 days ago
President Joe Biden participates in wreath laying ceremony at The Pentagon...
Nikki Carvajal and Jasmine Wright, CNN

Biden honors 9/11 victims at Pentagon ceremony: ‘This is a day not only to remember, but a day of renewal and resolve’

President Joe Biden commemorated the 21st anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks at a remembrance event Sunday at the Pentagon, delivering heartfelt remarks that honored those killed there. 
22 days ago
The Utah State Capitol (Photo: Derek Petersen, KSL TV)...
Doug Wright & Shelby Hintze, KSL TV

Vaccine mandate impact on Utah; a possible end to the death penalty in Utah

This week, a concerted effort to end the death penalty in Utah--from the Utah County Attorney to Republican lawmakers. And for a generation, they grew up in the shadow of 9/11, not really knowing a world without the tragedy. We talk with Katie McKellar from the Deseret News about the way the tragedy has shaped a generation. But first, President Biden this week announcing a vaccine or weekly testing requirement for US companies employing over 100 people. The details are scant right now but it's a decision already bringing praise and ire.
1 year ago
Carrie Pike (pictured left) became lifelong friends with the widows of the fallen firefighters on 9...
Ashley Moser, KSL TV

FDNY widows invite Utah woman to attend 9/11 anniversary in NYC

In 2001, Carrie Pike helped sew more than 400 grief teddy bears for the families of the firefighters killed on 9/11. Through that project, she became lifelong friends with the widows of the fallen, and that friendship turned into an invitation of a lifetime.
1 year ago
Members of NYPD, POPD, and FDNY hold a U.S. flag during the singing of the National Anthem at the a...

US marks 20 years since 9/11, in shadow of Afghan war’s end

Americans are solemnly marking the 20th anniversary of 9/11, just weeks after the fraught end of the Afghanistan war that followed the terror attack.
1 year ago
Jennilee Miller pays respect to victim Todd Beamer at the Wall of Names at the Flight 93 National M...
The Associated Press

The Latest: Flight 93 victims remembered for their spirit

The victims and heroes of Flight 93 are being commemorated at a ceremony at the site where the plane crashed in a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
1 year ago

Sponsored Articles

Portrait of smiling practitioner with multi-ethnic senior people...
Summit Vista

How retirement communities help with healthy aging

There are many benefits that retirement communities contribute to healthy aging. Learn more about how it can enhance your life, or the life of your loved ones.
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to choose what MBA program is right for you: Ask these questions before you apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Cloud storage technology with 3d rendering drawer with files in cloud...
PC Laptops

How backing up your computer can help you relieve stress

Don't wait for something bad to happen before backing up your computer. Learn how to protect your data before disaster strikes.
young woman with stickers on laptop computer...
Les Olson

7 ways print marketing materials can boost your business

Custom print marketing materials are a great way to leave an impression on clients or customers. Read for a few ideas to spread the word about your product or company.
young woman throwing clothes to organize a walk in closet...
Lighting Design

How to organize your walk-in closet | 7 easy tips to streamline your storage today

Read our tips to learn how to organize your walk-in closet for more storage space. These seven easy tips can help you get the most out of your space.
Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
Legacy of 9/11: Utah veteran develops program to help others heal from the wounds of war