July 18, 2023
James, a Vietnam War Veteran recently attended his first Bonfire retreat in Battle Lake, Minnesota. For 55 years he struggled with Post-traumatic stress, addiction and, mostly, the reception when he returned to the United States. He spoke of being spit on as he walked through San Francisco in his Class A uniform and spit shined jump boots.
He heard about the Warrior Bonfire Program in an article posted by the Veterans Administration (VA), but never thought of registering with the Warrior Bonfire Program as he thought “this isn’t for me”. One day he was looking at the Warrior Bonfire Program website a Bonfire retreat in Minnesota piqued his interest as his wife, a retired VA Nurse, was from Moorhead, MN. Something clicked and he signed up.
He came to Minnesota not really knowing what to expect and, as was his usual, he masked his fear through humor. As the retreat progressed, he felt more and more comfortable opening up with his fellow Purple Hearts and realized that while they were of a different era, they all suffered from the mental wounds of combat.
“As a disabled vet, upon our return from Vietnam, I felt we did not receive a “Welcome Home” nor thanks for our service. But I now declare, I received my welcome from fellow veterans at my first Warrior Bonfire Gathering.” – James W., Purple Heart