We encountered a powerful weekend in May that marked our seventh trip of the year. Our present day warriors met face to to face with those that were Medal of Honor recipients and POW's from past wars or conflicts as we were guests of the Commemorative Air Force opening ceremonies of the Trail of Honor in Jackson, Mississippi. This set the tone for the weekend for much discussion on topics that don't always come up at our Bonfires.
The Trail of Honor in Jackson, held every year at the Jim Harley Davidson shop, welcomes the traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall and establishes a trail throughout the large wooded area behind the shop into a living history museum of every war and conflict that we have been involved since the War of 1812. The connection, brotherhood and over feeling of being part of something bigger than themselves was more pronounced than on any other day. In addition, this trip included some of their spouses and children which gave them opportunities to share more of who they are with their families.
The immediate connections were remarkable as if the older generation was looking at themselves in a mirror. As it has been explained to us by World War II POW Clarence Earl Derrington that was captured at the Battle of the Bulge, issues and injuries we work on the Warrior Bonfire during our trips are no different than the issues and injuries of his day. The nightmares still occur even at 90 years of age, the frustrations, the guilt, and the sadness of the loss of their buddies in combat are all the same issues the modern day warrior faces today. The group bonding and support is very much needed that the Bonfire provides and 70 years ago this concept was far from being acceptable. That generation was encouraged to suppress not share. Derrington just happened to be unknowingly talking with our very own inspiration of the Warrior Bonfire Program, Greg Williams and stated, "you're 40 years behind, we needed this too." His words not only helped Williams but showed us all at the Bonfire that we are doing what is needed.
After the Trail of Honor our attention turned to two days of 3D Archery Shoot Competition, where our Purple Heart Veterans had fun sharing this time with their family and new friends. Just as last year, this 3D Archery Shoot organized by the Central Mississippi Archery Club and sponsored by Hobies Outdoor Sports, hosted seven Purple Hearts along with six of their children and two spouses. These men and their families got to compete in the two day shoot that consisted of more than twenty targets throughout the majestic woods at Camp Down Range in Clinton.
The event was wrapped up with an Official Flag Retirement Ceremony for all those attending the 3D Archery Shoot in the effort to share a bit of what we do at our trip Bonfires. We stop, we reflect, we honor and we lay to rest the tattered and tired American Flag along with our fallen heroes. When retiring the Flag it should always accompany the process set forth by Congress and with the utmost respect and reverence.
We would like to thank Hobie's and the Central Mississippi Archery Club for all their hard work to put on this fundraising event that doubled from last year and for providing the opportunity for our veterans to participate. We would also like to thank all the companies that supported the event with door prizes that helped to attract competitors.
The Warrior Bonfire Program has officially met the number of trips that we typically do in a full year since we began this organization. This trip found us only five months into 2016 and we have big plans for the rest of the year. That means we serve more and we create more Post Traumatic Growth. See all the photos here.
Drury Outdoors, Obession Bow, LLC, HHA Sports, Inc., HAWK Hunting, Wildlife Research Center, Wac' Em Archery Products LLC, Dead Center Archery Products, Millennium Outdoors, C'Mere Deer & Swhacker, The Crush with Lee and Tiffany, Buck Warrior Enterprises, LLC, Parker Bows, Kjanda, Treelimb Archery Products, Frankie Joseph, Gold Tip Arrows,Grim Reaper Broadheads, Allen Company, Blue Ridge Marketing, Elite Archery, Vapor Trail, Inc., Gart Land Associates, Bowtech Archery, Hunter's Addiction Game Calls, LLC, and Shipley's Donuts.
2016 is finding us stretching our borders to the north. The community at Deep Creek Lake in Garrette County, Maryland opened its arms wide for us in May to share not only the beauty of the lake but all it's fun activities as well. Every venue and restaurant we visited supported us in some capacity on this trip. We could not be more appreciative by their warm welcome.
The Warrior Bonfire Program kicked off the weekend with some energizing fun at the Wisp Resort! Sledding down the mountain at high rates of speeds on the Mountain Coaster sure was an icebreaker before mastering the Spider Challenge Course high above the ground! All the veterans experienced that familiar sense of brotherhood and support behind them to help make these activities fun and safe. The reminders of the brotherhood which they all miss as a community of support, further strengthens their senses to trust others and not be fearful of the unexpected.
After getting their stomachs back in check from the mountain coaster, the group was welcomed on a large scale at Uno Chicago Grill. Not only did we get a lot of attention on the marquee but we got big cheers from the Baltimore Raven Cheerleaders at a meet and greet during their yearly training retreat! Long stop for a photo op! This group loved and soaked up the attention. That afternoon we dodged the rain by grabbing some ice cream before a full buffet dinner, compliments of Dutch’s Restaurant at Silver Tree followed by a leisure pontoon boat ride back to the quarters.
Saturday found us as guest at the Adventure Sports Center to take on some white water rafting. Team building at it’s finest in groups of four navigating the course. Big fun, very we and very cold!
By design all of these activities are arranged with the primary goal of creating greater connections between all of the participants. These connections promote healing and can sometimes serve as a lifeline in the future. Our trips are not all fun and games, extensive talk therapy is strategically conducted at various times throughout the weekend.
"The brotherhood and fellowship is amazing!" USN PO3 Nik Oekerman
For veterans with PTSD it is incredibly important for the brain to consistently be exposed to healthy activities that produce healthy responses. The more their brains experience joy, happiness, peace, trust, and the lack of fear the faster it truly learns how to manage the struggles these men and women face every day. Learning to process fear or talk about fear, in a safe environment, around those that one trusts, is the purpose of the Bonfire. We give the tools and the network to promote Post Traumatic Growth.
"This trip made me feel that humanity is still alive and that there are still people out there that genuinely care about the vets and the people that contributed to our freedoms." One of the trip participants stated that wishes to remain anonymous.
Thank you to all our sponsors for this trip, especially Waltz Center for Oral Surgery & Implantology owner Dr. Robert Waltz, and WBP Board of Directors Member Michael Ginter for hosting us at your homes on Deep Creek Lake, as well as Uno Chicago Grill, Dutch’s Restaurant at Silver Tree, Wisp Resort, Adventure Sports Center, Garrett County Airport, Brenda's Pizzeria and all the private donors of the area. Without you, we could not provide as many trips as we do. Again, thank you for keeping the Bonfires Burning and bringing us up north!
See more photos from the Deep Creek Lake Bonfire - Click Here!
WBP Team writers
Blogs are written by staff members of the Warrior Bonfire Program along with guest writers.