JACKSON MICH. — Jeff Ward, Robert Ludwick and Ron Smith are all Michigan men who live in separate cities, but they come together often because of an organization called The Fallen Outdoors.
The group’s mission is to organize outdoor adventures such as hunting and fishing trips for all veterans past and present from every branch of the military, which these guys say is a gift.
“It has helped me tremendously," says Ward. "And has given me a purpose. It gets me out of the house as well as the other guys. That's the biggest part of it. So, I have some reason to get up and get moving.”
According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, between 40 and 44 veterans die by suicide every day.
Ludwick says he understands why that statistic is so high.
“When you come, I’m going to get emotional. Even though you are with people, you're still lonely, and being with other veterans, it kind of fills it in the void," Ludwick said.
And Smith agrees.
“A lot of veterans come out, and they can’t survive the way it is when they get out. You know, it's a whole new life starting over from their military life, and some of them just can't handle it. They call it the demons. They will dream and see this and that," Smith said. "Getting them outdoors and getting them on the water just helps them to forget about it. It makes them feel like they're part of something.”
All three men say Fallen Outdoors is saving lives.
“Absolutely, it does," says Smith. "The more people that our veterans that can get out in the outdoors, the less they think about the demons in their head, the less they think about suicide, the less depressed they get. By going outdoors, it just makes them forget their problems.”
Ward says he recently went fishing with an active-duty airman.
"The young man drove four hours to have the experience," Ward says. "It’s an example of why The Fallen Outdoors is such an important organization. He caught one fish, but he was really happy for the one fish. He really needed to talk to somebody. He let some emotions out and during the day. During the time we were fishing, he broke down twice. And I think it really did him some good to get some of that stuff out.”
The Fallen Outdoors organizes free hunting and fishing trips throughout the year. All veterans need is their license.
The local chapter of The Fallen Outdoors is holding a fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 26, at the VFW Post 7309 in Mason. For more information, please email Mbrookstfo@gmail.com.
We want to say thank you to The Fallen Outdoors for making a difference. You are all this week’s Good Neighbors.
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