Frequently Asked Questions

From fellow Veterans

Our Eagle, Hero, is a symbol of great strength, leadership and vision. When he appears, you are on notice to be courageous and stretch your limits and reach higher and become more than you believe you were capable of. If you are going through a hard time, our Eagle not only signals a new beginning, but provides you with the stamina and resilience to endure your difficulties. Summon our Eagle when you are about to embark on a challenge, a massive life change or a creative endeavor.  

Our Infinity Symbol reminds us that we are unbroken and need to seek balance and unity within ourselves and with others. It inspires us to embrace life’s endless possibilities and never give up on our dreams and goals. It serves as a reminder that the sky’s the limit and that anything is possible if we set our minds to it.  It inspires us to embrace the ups and downs of life and to find balance, harmony, meaning and purpose in the journey.

A fierce wind has battered us around and we are initially weakened, shaken, and begin questioning our ability to even fly straight and strong ever again. We have been torn, unstuffed and shattered perhaps by unspeakable occurrences, consequences, traumas, injuries, or illnesses. We have been the subject of harshness, indifference, and cruelty.

The fear of the unknown perhaps has debilitated us.  In these moments of uncertainty we fight courageously to right ourselves and keep in flight.  Embracing the struggle, we find that hidden light deep inside our souls and are reminded that we have been knocked down before and it hurts.  We are vulnerable but courageously step into the arena and find our grit, gumption, resilience, and our belief in something bigger than ourselves and begin to rise up−and that beautiful light moves our wings and we take flight and flourish with all our might.

We commit to deepening our resolve to be contributors, mentors, and leaders. We are compassionate and strong, committed and unyielding in our pursuit to be our best selves. Our struggles do not make us weak, harsh, or unforgiving−we instead use our struggles to fuel our rise.

We begin to soar higher and higher seeking out opportunities to serve others, to become stronger, to better ourselves. We use these moments of darkness to reflect and remember what and who we are, WE are UNBROKEN Spirits.

Any Veteran and Active Duty Military is eligible to apply for our program.  We don’t require Veterans to have a disability rating or ask you for proof of military service.  

Our program is designed to lead Veterans on a life-changing journey to become their best-self so they can effectively lead themselves, their families, and serve others in their community.  When reviewing applications, we are searching for Veterans who have a need and are committed to learning how to live a better life.  We are also looking for Veterans who have a positive attitude, sense of teamwork, character, and responsibility.  The transformative program we offer lasts almost a year and requires a lot of hard work and commitment, so if you are looking for a quick-fix solution to your needs, our program is not for you.

For assistance filling out an application, or to request a paper copy, please contact Major (Ret) Marlene Champagne (828) 782-8322

You will receive an immediate email confirmation letting you know that your application has been received, and is now in our applicant pool. Your application will be reviewed by one of our staff members within 72 hours. If selected for a follow-up interview, you will receive a text message to set up a date and time for the call.  

It’s critically important that you be responsive during this early phase. We are all unpaid volunteers and you will do yourself and fellow Veterans a disservice if we have to repeatedly ask for you to respond.  After your interview, our staff will review all the information you provided and insert it into a decision matrix that we created to help us objectively evaluate your application.  

Each applicant is scored on a scale from 1 to 21 across 7 dimensions.  We ultimately empower our Program Director, MAJ (Ret) Dan Runyon to make final decisions on selection.  If you are not selected in any step of our onboarding process you will be notified and told why.  At any time during this process, you can call Marlene at (828) 782-8322 to determine your current status.

Once selected, you will receive a phone call from Marlene who will inform you about your status and help shepherd you through the remainder of our onboarding process.  

The next step is for our Team Doctor to screen your application for medical concerns.  Our doctor may request that you obtain a Medical Clearance from your Primary Care Physician.  We will email you the form and give you adequate time to have it filled out and returned to us.  Once medically cleared, we will send you a welcome packet and all the resources you need to start the course. While waiting for your medical clearance we want you to get on our website  and learn about the symbolism of our Logo and what it means to live an Unbroken Spirit Life as well as all the other information available to get you ready to embark on a life-changing journey.  Almost everything you need to know is on our website.

We offer you a life-changing, comprehensive program that leads to long-term growth and wellbeing at no cost to Veterans!  Our Unbroken Spirit Pyramid of Success™ Program Model was developed through extensive scientific research in post-traumatic growth, positive psychology, and leadership.  Our sole focus is to help Veterans like you reimagine themselves and begin a life-changing journey armed with a new purpose, mindset, and support system.

 If you know there is a better way to live, but are not quite sure how to get started, you are in the right place and we would like to say, “Welcome Home!”  Our transformative training program is built on a foundation of holistic wellness (Body, Mind, and Spirit) and consists of three separate, but mutually supportive programs:  Pre-Deployment, Deployment and Post-Deployment.  

In a few words our program consists of an undergraduate-level leadership course; a physically and mentally tough wilderness team adventure; and community service.  If you have any questions about our program contact Peter at

Unbroken Spirit was founded by Veterans only for Veterans or Active Duty Military.  Many Veteran Service Organizations use a mix of Veteran and Civilian personnel to run their programs.  We decided to use only Veterans and not just any Veteran−we only partner with Veterans we know and trust in order to provide you with the best possible experience and outcomes. 

Our Founders, Colonel (Ret) Peter Champagne and Major (Ret) Marlene Champagne primarily lead the Pre-Deployment and Post-Deployment Phase with assistance from our Director of Spiritual Wellness, CAPT (Ret) Chaplain, Robert Evans.  Major (Ret) Dan Runyon and CSM (Ret) Gretchen Evans lead the Deployment Phase along with other hand-selected, highly qualified Veterans that act as Assistant Expedition Leaders.

Absolutely NO!  We will never ask you to buy anything.  Our program is completely free including your travel expenses.  The only thing we ask in return is for you to be fully committed to learning, growing, and leading.  This is not an easy program to graduate from and it’s not for everyone.  You will be expected to work hard and meet all course requirements.  In return we invest heavily in you by providing the best gear, equipment, clothing, and course materials to set you up for success. 

Using our exclusive Unbroken Spirit Pre-Deployment Training Program Model and instructor led training we help Veterans achieve a whole person or holistic wellness by strengthening your body, mind, and spirit wellness.  We empower each Veteran to believe in a future that might not exist yet; learn the skills necessary to achieve that goal; and succeed in creating a brighter future of growth, lifelong-fulfillment, and service.  We accomplish those goals through our proprietary curriculum that is delivered to you over a 3 month period using six instructor-led seminars.  

During these seminars you will get to meet your fellow Veterans and begin building bonds of trust and camaraderie that will lead to team unity and cohesiveness during your group-based wilderness experience in the 2nd phase of our training program. Upon selection into the program you will receive an Unbroken Spirit resource package containing the course syllabus, books, and subscription links to fitness and relaxation Apps.

During this phase of training you and the Veterans that you met during your Pre-Deployment training will come together in Asheville, NC for a backpacking expedition in the pristine mountains of Western North Carolina.  Participating in a group-based wilderness adventure helps us feel that sense of camaraderie we loved about the military and provides us an opportunity to create new social connections with Veterans like you in a meaningful way that leads to long-term psychological wellbeing.  

This part of your training can improve your physical, mental, and spiritual wellness−critical elements and outcomes from our Unbroken Spirit Pyramid of Success.  Our Deployment Training Program rests on scientific research that indicates the following benefits:

  • Improved mood and is relaxation
  • Reduced feeling of stress or anger
  • Improved sleep quality
  • Increased motivation leading to higher levels of fitness
  • Reduced stress, cortisol levels, muscle tension and heart rates
  • Restored mental capacities−increased focus and attention
  • Provide space to come together and find social connection−reduced loneliness and isolation
  • Lowered risk of depression
  • Accelerated psychological recovery

You will be required to put a 35 lbs. pack on your back and hump it 8-10 miles a day for 2.5 days on a challenging, mountainous trail.  We provide you with a safe environment that encourages you to connect with your existing strengths, put into practice newly developed skills, and bond with your fellow Veterans in nature.  Once you come off the trail you will participate in a celebratory dinner with members of the community that donated their hard earned money to make this opportunity completely cost free to you.  If you have any questions about this phase of training contact Dan at

You do not have to be an athlete or in peak physical condition to attend an Unbroken Spirit course, but you do have to be ready both physically and mentally to take on the challenges you will experience while on course.  There are two kinds of strength necessary to complete your course; physical and mental strength. Your body needs to be strong, but you must also come with an open mind, willing spirit, and constant teamwork mentality. 

  • Teamwork – Be ready to be part of a team. Think about other team experiences you have had in the past whether they are military, sports teams, school plays, or business meetings. Come up with a few observations about what has made your teams successful in the past and plan on being a positive contributor during your course.
  • Compassion – Compassion is one of Unbroken Spirit’s core values. Be prepared to offer it and expect it from your teammates. You will travel with and rely on a group of strangers each of whom have different reasons for attending Unbroken Spirit and will come with varying levels of physical and mental strength. You may find that you will need to make compromises in your own expectations to support other members of your team. It is important to remember that in such a small group setting, your attitude and actions affect everyone.
  • Group Discussion – Unbroken Spirit delivers learning, in large part, by discussing course experiences. By considering the experience through group discussion before and after, you are more able to hold onto the value of each experience and take it home with you. Be prepared to share your perspective and gain insight from others on your expedition.

We know that if you don’t already do it, adopting a daily exercise routine is not easy and that it can be challenging to find the motivation. But every minute you put in prior to your course will pay off once you get out there. So, if you do not already engage in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week, we recommend putting in the time to train prior to your course. The need for aerobic fitness is greater in the mountains where your backpacking trip will be.

Dan will provide you with a recommended 12-week, progressive exercise program that we can monitor to help get you physically prepared to meet the challenges of our wilderness experience.  We want you to make healthy and helpful choices in the months leading up to the Deployment. Contact Dan at if you have any questions on our exercise program.  

We want you to be a responsible teammate, one who is accountable to the other Veterans on your team.  Take that responsibility seriously and do your job to get ready physically and mentally by adopting the below healthy habits:

A great way to prepare physically is to adopt healthy eating habits and focus on being well-hydrated.  The following tips may help:

  • Arrive in Asheville, NC for your Deployment Phase of Training well rested
  • Reduce consumption of fatty foods, excessive alcohol, and caffeine. As these substances require a lot of water and oxygen to metabolize
  • Eat plenty of unrefined carbohydrates (i.e. whole grains)
  • Drink more water than usual; 1/2 to 1 gallon of water per day
  • Stop using tobacco
  • Don’t overdo it. Many people, novice and experienced alike, commonly complain of tired and aching bodies; the result of believing that the harder the body is pushed the faster it will improve. In fact, the opposite is true. The more moderately you train, as long as you are increasing your heart rate adequately, the more quickly you will improve.

Our goal is to create teams consisting of 15 Veterans.  We have learned over the years that life sometimes gets in the way and although we may start the Pre-Deployment Phase with 15 Veterans, by the time the Deployment Phase starts, 1-3 Veterans may have to unfortunately withdraw from our program.  Ideally, no less than 12 Veterans complete all phases of our program.  Keep in mind that the demand for our program exceeds the number of Veterans we can accept in a given year.  That means if you are selected, you must be fully committed and do everything within your control to complete the entire program. 

Before you even depart your home to travel to Asheville for your deployment you will be given a very detailed operations order that contains everything you need to know to successfully complete this phase of training.  During the first and last night in Asheville you will sleep in the team hotel with one of your teammates and eat some fabulous food in local restaurants and in the home of members of the local community where our Founders, Colonel Peter and Major Marlene Champagne live.  During the 2nd and 3rd nights you will sleep on the ground on a sleeping pad in a tent with one of your teammates.  While on the trail you will eat nutritious food and snacks including nuts, dried fruit, energy bars, dehydrated meals, fresh fruit, Gatorade, hot chocolate and coffee.  If you have any dietary restrictions please let our Expedition Leader, Dan know as soon as possible

Each night on the trail we sit around a campfire.  You will never be asked or forced to share your personal story, experience in the military, or challenges you are facing during this time or anytime for that matter.  That said, it is our experience that the most healing takes place around the campfire.  Unbroken Spirit delivers learning, in large part, by discussing course and personal experiences. By considering the experience through group discussion before and after, you are more able to hold onto the value of each experience and take it home with you. Be prepared to share your perspective and gain insight from others on your expedition.  You will be amazed at how many other Veterans on your team are dealing with the same challenges.

We only ask that you bring your personal clothes and shoes such as comfortable hiking shoes, pants, tops, fleece, socks, and underwear.  You can also bring your own camping gear if you have any.  Otherwise, we provide everything and our gear and equipment is top of the line, lightweight, and comfortable.  This includes rain gear, headlamps, trekking poles, water filtration system, rain gear, fleece zip jacket, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, stove, fuel and more.  You will receive a complete packing list for your deployment so it will be easy for you to decide what to bring.

Yes, if your dog falls under the ADA definition of service animal – Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.  Please discuss this with Col. Peter Champagne at

Unbroken Spirit does not require Veterans to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Regardless of vaccination status, all Veterans should adhere to the following health practices prior to the start of their Group-based Wilderness Adventure:  Practice physical distancing when outside your household; Wash or sanitize your hands frequently; Avoid crowded places, especially indoors; Avoid contact with people who are sick; Follow current recommended guidance and requirements from the CDC regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and monitor for COVID-19 symptoms.   Do not travel to Asheville if you are with COVID-19, or if you have tested positive for COVID-19. In these cases, please contact Marlene immediately to work through your options (828) 782-8322.

This phase of training continues to build self-confidence and a sense of purpose in each Veteran so they can lead themselves effectively and serve as leaders in their family, community, and nation.  Following one of our Guiding Principles−Leave No One Behind−each Veteran is assigned a Mentor to guide them through the Post-Deployment process.  

The relationship that develops is expected to be incredibly rewarding and satisfying for both the Mentor and Veteran.  Once you get home, eligible Veterans will get an opportunity to participate FREE in a holistic wellness program with one of our trusted partners, Catch A Lift Fund, where they will work with a certified Veteran coach to build a custom eight-week holistic wellness program based on CAL’s four pillars of fitness, nutrition, emotional wellness, and community.  Additionally, you will participate in 3 more instructor-led zoom seminars with Veterans who have been on your journey since day one.  During these sessions we will teach you some advanced leadership skills that will help you truly become a servant leader in your community.

We will expect you to work hard and turn in all your assignments on time.  The reading and homework assignments are manageable and not overwhelming.  They will take approximately three hours per week during the Pre-Deployment Phase.  Keep in mind, you are investing in yourself and family.  Our program requires a lot of self-reflection and we provide you with practical exercises to help you develop the skills needed for your journey.  We will provide you with feedback for each assignment and you will find that one-on-one communication invaluable.  You will participate in a total of 6 zoom seminars over a two month period so that will take up a total of 6 more hours of your time.  Everything to keep you on track including the schedule, reading assignments, and homework will be provided to you in the course syllabus.  

These seminars and assignments are mandatory and necessary in order for you to stay eligible to graduate from our program. Community Service.

During the Deployment Phase you will miss 3 days of work (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday). Many employers give Veterans this time off and some even still pay you for it.  We can provide proof of your enrollment if necessary. 

Each Veteran in our program is paired up with a donor who has helped pay for their Scholarship or Tuition.  These are people who love Veterans, our military, and country.  Once you are enrolled into our program we will match you with your donor and ask you to write an introductory letter that expresses your gratitude for their support.  You will actually get to meet your sponsor in Asheville at your Celebratory Dinner. 

Finally, we will ask you to work with a Mentor that is assigned to you during your Post-Deployment Phase of training. This person will be a resource to you and help further your development.  During this phase we will ask you to conduct some kind of community service activity of your choosing and your mentor will assist you in planning the activity/event and ensure you have the resources you need to be successful.

Please contact Major (Ret) Marlene Champagne at (828) 782-8322 or

Finding our way, together.

We know the first step is the hardest to make. Let us help you learn the skills and methods needed to get your life back and become a true Unbroken Spirit. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have questions.