On Base Just Feels Right

WBP Staff Writer Helen Phillips & Bonfire Leader Brian Boone

December 5, 2023

When veterans have the opportunity to visit a military base or installation, it stirs the soul, creates a sense of forgotten pride, and just feels right! The connection to the long collective history of our military along with being a part of this very special club initiated by blood, sweat, and maybe a tear or two, creates a challenge to explain. So we decided to let veterans Michael and Richard share in their own words.

Letterkenny Army Depot in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania was the setting for Bonfire #177 for Purple Heart members of the Warrior Bonfire Program. Letterkenny history dates back to 1941 when plans we made for it to be one of the 12 locations to control the oncoming deluge of war material, but for us it was an incredible place to come together and hunt on public but protected federal land. Coordinated in partnership with Whitetail Warrior Project of Alabama, and conducted by current and retired Letterkenny Army Depot personnel, offered the hunt of a lifetime and a way for the facility and personnel a way to give back to veterans.

Michael Newton, Marine veteran in attendance on his experience. “Letterkenny was truly an incredible place. Stepping foot back on a military installation with such historic significance definitely enhanced the entire experience. There’s just something special about being able to hunt on a federal installation that takes such pride in its military heritage, as well as its dedication to wildlife conservation.  The team at Letterkenny put together an incredible hunt, assisted by local pillars in the community.  Each and every Purple Heart participant was given the opportunity to harvest a nice whitetail deer thanks to the kind folks there. Aside from the team aboard Letterkenny, the group leaders with both Warrior Bonfire Program and Whitetail Warriors did an incredible job building group cohesion. It was readily apparent that these guys were there to ensure everyone had a great experience, and they did an incredible job doing so. I’m truly blessed for the opportunity WBP provided me, and grateful for the friendships made with the incredible men I met there. A once in a lifetime experience, that I will carry forward with me throughout my life. Thank you WBP for the opportunity, and most especially for the memories!”

Richard Weltz, a retired Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal technician, also attended the retreat.  “This Warrior Bonfire trip was a great combination of Whitetail Warriors and Warrior Bonfire Program; it was surreal being back on an active Army Ammo Depot. As an EOD sailor, we spent many days out in the magazine areas, and I haven’t seen one since my retirement. It really brought back some great memories for me as I always loved seeing what was stored out deep in the magazines, lots of history out there. The locals that worked there and the volunteers that helped with the hunt were amazing, full of local knowledge and of the area itself. The organizers went way above and beyond for this trip, they really have the process down. We were paired up with a guide for the day, and in my case I had Chuck who was a Vietnam vet. We had a lot to talk about, as both having been in a major war. It was nice to talk with another war vet and his experiences during his time in Vietnam.”