By Doc Watson
Special to the Herald Times
MEEKER | The Herald Times had the privilege to interview two of the five veterans who enjoyed a wilderness adventure on July 30–Aug. 4 in the Flattops Mountains hosted by Freedom Alliance and supported by Adams Lodge Outfitters right here in Meeker. Their trip included a horseback trip to the Big Fish Lake area for a few days of camping, fishing, personal healing and “campfire camaraderie.”
Freedom Alliance (FA) was founded by two Vietnam Veterans in May 1990: the late Lt. Gen. Edward Bronars, USMC, and the well-known Lt. Col. Oliver North, USMC (Ret.). Its purpose is to provide help and support to wounded troops and military families. The many ways it accomplishes that purpose is truly staggering.
It gives customized all-terrain wheel chairs and mortgage-free homes to combat veterans and provides emergency financial assistance. It also ships care packages to troops overseas and hosts Troop Appreciation Events at nearly every major military installation in the country that benefit troops and their families, including: dinners, vacations, golf outings and sporting events. In 2016 alone, FA sponsored more than 100 such events, none of which cost the service people a dime. (Reading over a list of those events brings a tear to one’s eye.)
Another FA program is equally stunning. To date, their scholarship fund has awarded more than $10 million in college scholarships to the sons and daughters of America’s military heroes. Tens of thousands more children of wounded personnel will eventually qualify for such a scholarship.
All of this is “funded with private, voluntary donations from generous Americans,” as the FA website states, and they are committed to total “organizational transparency,” even posting their non-profit IRS Form 990 online.
The specific event held here was one of FA’s Outdoor Adventures, which provide recreational therapy for injured service members. This type of event, which is held in many locations across the country every year, provides healing opportunities for our veterans and a chance to bond with other service members who are facing similar circumstances.
The trip provided by Adams Lodge Outfitters, in fact, one they have been doing since 2014, is among FA’s most treasured events because of the solitude, beautiful scenery, equine therapy and campfire camaraderie it offers. Owner Bruce Clatterbaugh himself served as the guide for the trip.
The two veterans interviewed—Ryan and Corey (last names withheld by request)—were both Army medics. When asked what the trip really meant to them, both men indicated that it was far more than just the great outdoors.
“Honestly, for me, the fishing and the trip in was amazing, but it’s the intimate setting Freedom Alliance provides that was the biggest part,” Corey said. “The group is small so you can all sit down and talk and kind of get to know each other. None of us had ever met prior to the trip, but you walk out with a new friend, someone who has kind of walked in your shoes. It’s not so much sitting on the side of the lake, it’s the time back at camp. Every experience I’ve had with Freedom Alliance has been perfect.”
Ryan (who is also part of FA) echoed the words of his new friend. “It’s really cool to watch how friendships develop on the first day. We really did very little fishing. While we were sitting there one day kind of wasting the day away talking about things both inside and outside the military, one of the guys said, ‘I love fishing, and I came here to fish, but to be honest this is what I needed.’ That is really the goal of everything we do at Freedom Alliance. It’s not the event itself; it’s the healing process that comes through (the event). A lot of times military personnel will come home and become reclusive and not share their feelings and experiences and (therefore) not grow. It’s our hope that doing these events will help individuals achieve a sort of growth through their shared experience.”
Corey said it well, “Freedom Alliance is an amazing group of people,” so if you would like to know more, perhaps even make a donation, visit them at: freedomalliance.org/.
By Doc Watson