Combat veterans of all war eras are invited to “throw their name in the hat” for one of seven activities being sponsored this year by Outdoor Adventures for Military Heroes.
“We can take 20 to 30 vets, so anybody can and should put their name in for one of these events,” said Fred Coleman, president of the group.
On the agenda for 2014 is a spring trap shoot and bass fishing trip, turkey hunt, three fishing trips for salmon and steelhead in the fall, as well as cow elk and doe hunts. There might also be a white water rafting trip in the works, although those plans have not yet been finalized.
“This is really going to test us,” said Wasco County Chief Deputy Lane Magill, a board member. “It will help us see where we are as an organization and what we’re made of.”
Outdoor Adventures operates under the umbrella of the Gorge Heroes Club, a nonprofit organization that supports active duty troops and military families from the Mid-Columbia region.
To qualify for an all-expenses paid adventure in 2014, said Magill, the veteran must reside in Wasco County, although the field is likely to eventually be broadened to include inhabitants of the entire region.
“It’s been pretty exciting having people call us from outside the area wanting to be involved but we’re keeping it local for now because we felt it was important to give our own combat veterans the first opportunities,” he said.
Coleman said names submitted by veterans will be drawn on a lottery system. If someone does not get selected for one of this year’s endeavors, his or her name will remain on file for the 2015 drawing.
“You can put your name in for one thing or for everything,” said Magill. “We really want to get the word out that these events are open to women as well as men, we don’t want to exclude anybody from getting to enjoy one of the activities.”
Outdoor Adventures held its inaugural doe hunting trip in October for four combat veterans who had received either physical injuries or suffered from the hidden wounds of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). “We think that these types of activities help returning veterans with reintegration and give those who have been home for a while the opportunity to meet others who have served,” said Magill.
Oregon National Guard Staff Sergeant Patrick Wilbern of The Dalles was one of the first hunters. He has suffered from chronic back pain, migraines and seizures since surviving a roadside bomb blast during a 2010-11 deployment to Iraq.
“It was a very positive environment that allowed us to relax and not have to worry about anything except having fun,” he said.
Magill said each of the veterans provided feedback about the doe hunt on south county farm land owned by Bill and Barbara Hammel and Larry and Vicki Ashley.
The input given by participants has been incorporated into the next set of plans.
It has been heartening, said Magill, to learn that some of the veterans from the first trip formed friendships and have gotten together for coyote hunts or social time since last fall.
“Not only do we have the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to veterans with these activities, but they get to spend time with other veterans who understand what they are going through,” he said.
The Outdoor Adventures board also includes: Hal Woods, a former Marine combat veteran and firefighter for Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue who serves as vice-president; Mike Caldwell, a retired Oregon State Police trooper who takes on duties as secretary/treasurer; Eric Hyatt, a cowboy and maltster for Rogue Ales and Spirits; and Keith Nantz, general manager and partner of Dillon Land and Cattle Company in Maupin.
Magill said the organization put out the word toward the end of 2013 that they were looking for more volunteers to help out with the cause — and ended up with 15 new participants.
“These are people from all over the county who are interested in what we are doing,” he said. “The response has been great.”
He said the generosity of landowners in offering to host hunts is key to the success of the ventures and it has been humbling to have that list growing as well.
“Without the landowners donating their time, equipment and use of their property we wouldn’t be able to do all this,” he said.
Wasco County Veterans’ Service Officer Russell Jones and Wilbern, who works as part-time intake coordinator, are helping Outdoor Adventures reach out to local men and women who have served in the armed forces.
Outdoor Adventures formed in early 2013 after receiving start-up funds of $5,000 from Eid Passport, Inc., a Hillsboro company.
A contribution of more than $2,800 was later given to the group by Bob Stone, owner of a local car dealership.
Veterans wanting to participate can mail a request to: Outdoor Adventures for Military Heroes, PO Box 9, The Dalles, Ore. 97058. Donations can also be sent to that address.
For more information, or to submit a request online, email Coleman at email@example.com