ZAMORA, Calif. – Think back for a moment to your childhood. Did you have a favorite or special place? For many of today’s adults, the answer would be in the great outdoors with family and friends. Nothing could be truer for wounded veterans who recently shared quality time together at Quail Point Hunt Club during a Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) Alumni pheasant hunt.
“This serves as a release for me and makes me feel whole,” said Army veteran Russell Baldwin, who grew up enjoying the outdoors. “I grew up hunting and fishing, and this event reminds me of hunting as a boy, with my dad and brothers-- before I joined the military.”
The WWP Alumni program creates support through shared experiences and brings injured veterans together to build camaraderie. By bonding through events and programs, wounded veterans learn they are not alone. The Alumni program is one of 20 direct, life-saving programs and services offered free of charge to wounded service members, their caregivers, and families.
After injured veterans listened to a thorough safety brief and received appropriate ammunition for the day, they put on their hunter orange hats. Teams of experienced and new hunters formed, each with a hunting dog and a field guide who led them toward their assigned area on the 2,000 acre, natural cover preserve.
Air Force veteran and WWP Alumnus, Jamie Albertson, is a new hunter and appreciated being able to learn, apply, and improve his skills during the hunt. “I struggled to hit anything at first, but the volunteer guide remained positive and supportive,” he said. “I was able to take what I learned and improve throughout the day.”
Outdoor activities, such as hunting, can provide a connection with nature and with others.
While Alumni bonded, they rotated multiple shot turns as birds were flushed out by the dogs.
Jamie attended the hunt to assist with his recovery and to overcome social anxiety. “This is a different type of event and located farther away than any of the other WWP activities I’ve attended,” he said. “So it was a great opportunity to meet more wounded warriors while trying new things.”
WWP Alumni attended either a morning or afternoon hunt. Participants gathered between the two sessions to enjoy camaraderie among combat veterans, learn about WWP programs and services, and feast on a BBQ meal.
“I appreciate the environment WWP provides to help wounded service members regain lost self-esteem and rebuild our social skills,” Jamie said. “I know I can go to an event and my fellow warriors understand when I have a problem and need some support to work it out.”
Currently, more than 100,000 wounded service members, their family members, and caregivers receive support each year through free WWP programs and services. Through a high-touch and interactive approach, the WWP vision is to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history.
One of these programs is the WWP Combat Stress and Recovery Program (CSRP). CSRP provides military rehabilitation services at key stages during the readjustment process to help wounded veterans and their families maintain healthy, meaningful relationships while pursuing life goals, free from the barriers or stigmas associated with mental health issues. In January 2016 alone, 2,157 injured servicemen and women received care through WWP’s mind pillar, which includes CSRP.