Sometimes the Smallest Conversations Create the Biggest Impact

Staff Writer Helen Phillips

January 10, 2020

When a small group of combat-injured veterans comes together, the potential for life-changing revelations is large! A hunt environment can sometimes be challenging. Yes, being outdoors is incredibly therapeutic as it helps to quiet the mind, body, and soul, but for what we do at our retreats, we are looking to create a conversation that leads to empowerment. Therefore, everyone is paired up by twos for hunting sessions. Also, everyone is rotated by design to optimize a variety of sharing advice and resources with everyone. This activity is in conjunction with our larger group sessions that are always full of meaningful and trustful words of wisdom.

Visualize this scenario. Two combat-injured veterans, sitting in a box stand roughly 6 feet by 4 feet, 15 feet off the ground in the middle of a quiet field surrounded by tree lines in the distance. They quietly watch the sunrise and listen to the world of nature wake up around them and they feel the excitement of being alive and enjoying life around them. “You know one time I remember on lookout while in Iraq…” and in a whispering voice the memories are shared. On this particular day with two of our veterans, the memory happened to have a personal connection and it sounded very familiar to the other. The second veteran asked, “Did you know sergeant so and so…?” The first veteran responds with incredible excitement, “Yes, I did!” The second veteran, “that’s my brother!” Instantly, a bond is created and the second veteran vows to connect the two after the hunt. The network of support is now a bit wider.

In another stand, another veteran shares the loss of his mother which made the impact on himself to be healthier for his children. They eat extremely healthy, created good sleep habits and it has had a positive impact on his physical pains from his time in battle. This inspired another veteran to commit to making this change in hopes it will help me as well. The first one commits to encourage and educate when needed. This action alone may save a veteran’s life!

Throughout the weekend, a middle-aged veteran recognized how much he had been complaining about his challenges from a traumatic brain injury, physical pain from a partial hand amputation and post-traumatic stress disorder, after witnessing a 28-year-old veteran with both legs amputated below the knees and an arm amputation, never complain and climb the ladder into the deer stands. “I look at this young triple amputee who is active and doesn’t let anything get in his way, and I realize not having a thumb and my pinky is nothing!” Inspiration to count his blessings will have a profound effect on his wife and children when he returns home!

“While hunts don’t sound like much, it helps us to hear that a lot of us share the same struggle and can relate to each other,” stated Purple Heart Ryan G. We like to say that it is not about the hunt, it is about the camaraderie. “I was in a funk before I arrived, I was feeling down, worn out and just out of it. That all changed instantly as soon as I arrived!” Purple Heart Benjamin S.

“No one has to carry the load alone, just like while serving, no one is left alone to complete the mission.” Purple Heart Allen P.