For the second time we wrapped up the year end with a hunt in Gilbertown, AL at Water Valley Lodge! This hunt experience always proves to be a dream weekend, with good hunting, good food, fantastic lodging and solid Veteran support all around. This year, three organizations came together to pull their resources to provide a weekend hunt with all the frills. Along with the Warrior Bonfire Program providing access to our Purple Heart members, the Whitetail Warrior Project, Inc. provided lodging and food with the help of Water Valley Lodge and the Southeast Experience crew came in with guides. All coming together, with one goal in mind, to provide the best we have to offer during the holiday season for our Purple Heart Veterans, those that have sacrificed for our freedoms.
Our Bonfire ceremony is reserved mostly for our Purple Heart Veterans but there are times that we invite others to fully understand the power and magnitude of the act of retiring the American Flag. This retirement also includes the naming of those brothers or sisters in service that were lost in battle, giving our members the opportunity to honor and memorialize those that often were responsible for saving the life of the Veteran still in our presence. This act cannot be done enough, as they are forever in our hearts and minds. The impact this ceremony has on those attending is always one that squeezes the heart with an intensity that leaves you weak in the knees and emotionally drained. Hearing the names of fallen heroes echoing in the night, aching to grab hold of their memory and pulling them back, is completely gut wrenching but soothing at the same time. For those that were there, they live the reality everyday, with the questions racing through their minds...
What could I have done differently?
Should it have been me?
Why was it not?
If I could only switch places?
I don't feel lucky at all....
We wanted the guides who were all military, to know what we were truly about and to understand fully what their time and commitment of being there meant to all of us. It is up to us, those that work with veteran care organizations, those as members, to educate and build a bridge of understanding to create deeper healing, growth and support for future generations.
See photos from this event here!
Thank you to our partners that made this opportunity amazing!
Today marks the 5th anniversary of the very first Warrior Bonfire event at Valley Park, Mississippi, January 3, 2013. Tomorrow, January 4, 2018 we will kick off that same hunt and it will also mark our 50th Bonfire event overall. We have come a long way in five years growing from an average of 4 events a year to now 18. Our plan is to continue to grow with our events across the country as well as build the Bonfire Lodge at Camp Down Range in Clinton, MS and develop programs to take place there on a consistent basis for our Purple Heart Veterans.
In the later part of 2012, the vision of the Warrior Bonfire Program began to form in the mind of our founder, Dan Fordice, as he often looked for ways to serve and help his fellow veterans who suffered from injuries both physical and mental. Dan served for a total of 13 years between the U.S. Army and the Mississippi National Guard and it is truly his passion to find resources and connections to relieve any possible obstacles.
Dan found himself in a conversation with SFC (RET. USA) Charles Gregory Williams, who sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury when a Rocket Propelled Grenade struck and exploded a 50 Cal ammunition box two feet from his head and was later medically retired in November 2011 for wounds received while in combat. Greg commented that he could spend a full day with a PhD certified counselor and not come close to the therapeutic value of sitting around a bonfire with five or six guys who were there. Dan quickly responded, “We will provide the bonfire!”
Finding this new purpose to fulfill his passion, Dan began putting in place the structure to build environments that would be most beneficial to our Purple Heart recipients. On the eve of December 30, 2012, Dan organized a small event with family and friends on the sandbar bank of the Mississippi River, with dinner, music and a bonfire. It was then he announced his plans as we gathered around the fire and introduced many of us to the formal retirement of our tired and tattered American Flags. It was then that the Warrior Bonfire Program began.
Dan jumped on putting together trips and bonfires faster than you could light a match. He pulled resources from family and friends, for the use of hunting clubs, transportation, food donations, and more. Each trip continues to build more structure and organization as well as build the fire in our hearts to light the way.
Now the Bonfire has traveled and spread to twenty states, with nearly 250 members being served through various support programs such as Jammin at the Bonfire, Hangin at the Bonfire, Hangin with Heroes, Peer to Peer support program known as the Ambassador Program and our signature Bonfire Adventure events. The Warrior Bonfire Program is recognized by the Combined Federal Campaign, the R4 Alliance, Guidestar Silver, America’s Warrior Partnership, and Great Non-Profits Top Rated organization for three years in a row.
We thank all of our supporters, donors, partners and volunteers for all of their hard work and belief in our programs to keep our Purple Heart Veterans moving forward and striving for a full life.
Join Our Mission and Ignite the Bonfire with continuous support of $15 Monthly
The success of 2017 is truly a reflection of our donors and partners. Without you we couldn't have:
Increased our membership by 50%
Added 18 more events to our records
Visited 14 different states
Actively served 108 Purple Heart Veterans
Supported our membership of nearly 250
Your commitment of an ongoing monthly donation of $15 offers the Warrior Bonfire Program the ability to plan future events and give our Purple Heart Veterans that are struggling from their injuries sustained in combat, more opportunities to:
Find support to combat self medication
See hope in the future
Find a new purpose beyond service
Join Us to IGNITE the Bonfire!
"Remember, you're not just sending six guys hunting, you're convincing six guys to not kill themselves."
~ Purple Heart Greg Williams
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for $15 a Month
WBP Team writers
Blogs are written by staff members of the Warrior Bonfire Program along with guest writers.