Jul 10, 2015

A Place To Heal

By Marc Drewek

All of us know someone that has served in the armed forces. It could be a neighbor, friend, co-worker or family member. I come from a family of veterans that goes back to a grandfather who served in World War I. My father served in World War II, an Uncle who served in Viet Nam and a nephew who served in Iraq.  Many did not return and those who came home suffer from physical and emotional scars. For many of these veterans they left the war and headed back into civilian life with little or no support. We all need to have a support mechanism in place to help deal with life’s difficulties and, for many of us, it’s family and friends. I believe that our veterans need that and more. For those of us who are passionate about the outdoors, the power we have to touch people’s lives is much larger than we think. I have been an outdoor mentor and have experienced just what that means. Imagine being an outdoor mentor for a military veteran who has put their life on the line so that we can enjoy the outdoor opportunities we have.

On Wednesday, May 13, 2015 my guest on Living the Outdoors radio program was Matt Tennessen, a National Guard veteran who served in Afghanistan during operation Enduring Freedom. Matt shared with us his story and the story of his friend, Ryan Adams. They were assigned to the 951st Engineer Company Army National Guard based in Rhinelander, Wisconsin. They were conducting road clearing operations for the Army’s 101st Airborne Division. In October 2009, their vehicle was attacked by rocket propelled grenade fire, killing Adams and wounding several others. Matt grew up with a love for the outdoors, spending his summers catching carp and sheepshead on the Fox River in Kaukauna. After returning from Afghanistan, Matt conquered his issues by getting more involved in the outdoors. He received an e-mail from a fellow vet about a trout fishing trip that he had been sponsored by The Wounded Warriors in Action. Matt kept that e-mail and, after a couple years, went on the trip. While on that trip, Matt re-discovered the healing qualities of the outdoors.

After a few outdoor excursions of his own, Matt decided he needed to pay it forward and help other veterans. After a turkey hunting fundraiser, Matt was introduced to Al Lemovec.  Al owned a piece of property located near Willard, Wisconsin. After the introduction, the connection was made and the idea of an old style hunting camp for veterans was born. That next fall, a deer hunt was planned during the rut and it was a huge success. The idea of a veteran mentoring a veteran now had its place. The outdoors was serving as a platform for veterans to share their experiences with other veterans who understood and could relate.

Camp Ryan Adams is named in honor of the late Sergeant Ryan Adams, a Rhinelander, Wisconsin native killed in action while serving his country in Afghanistan. The camp is located on 255 acres of woodlands north of Willard in west central Wisconsin. The camp’s mission is to facilitate the emotional healing in the outdoors of disabled and wounded individuals and their families. Special emphasis is focused on U.S.A Military veterans. The camps environment and activities promote fellowship, community and new relationships. Don’t let Memorial Day and Veterans Day be the only days we honor the people who defend our freedom. Honor them every day and support them through organizations like Camp Ryan Adams. Remember to live life is to share life, so share your passion for the outdoors with someone. It will make you a better person. To keep this legacy going, please donate to Camp Ryan Adams and give our veterans a place to heal.