Over 8,000 veterans- the men and women who made sacrifices to protect our freedoms and way of life- take their own lives each year in the U.S. Three million people have served in the military for the United States since September 11, 2001. Of those three million people, 20% need help. Read on to learn how Sportsmen For Warriors uses hunting and the outdoors to provide life enhancing support to our nations warriors and their families.
Last week I was forwarded an email from Ben Bateman, a United States Army veteran and founder of Sportsmen For Warriors: an organization which, in the simplest of explanations, provides life-enhancing support to our nations Warriors through recreation in the outdoors. The email Ben had written, which touched on his own post-war struggles and the striking veteran statistics listed above, was eye-opening to say the least. As a result of his email and the fact that KUIU has recently become a sponsor of Sportsmen For Warriors, I wanted to learn more and do what I could to help spread the message.
After reading everything on their website and having a phone conversation with Ben, it became apparent that Sportsmen For Warriors’ field of work transcends “hunting” as most of us know it. This is not a program that simply sends a veteran hunting after enduring the mental and physical challenges of war, concluding that the person is suddenly better prepared to succeed in society. Instead, they work closely with each warrior over time, peeling off the layers of emotional strain through curative conversation.
“Hunting success isn’t the point”, Ben explains. “What matters most are the conversations we’re able to have with our warriors. The biggest hurdle these men and women face when coming back from war is opening up and sharing their feelings. Therapeutic conversation and creating new, post-war memories is our initial goal; hunting just happens to be a very good vehicle to drive us toward these objectives.”
By providing a platform for veterans to speak openly about their experiences with other warriors like Ben who can relate is what begins the healing process and opens the door for future goal-oriented meetings. “The human psyche makes people think that they’re responsible for things they’ve witnessed in war. I’ve been there. I spent a lot of time wondering what I could have done differently to not see friends die”, Ben says. “The best way to get past these consuming thoughts is to talk about them. Without opening up, it’s very hard to come to peace with the mind. At the same time, it’s also very hard to open up- hence the suicide statistics.” Not only does the initial release of any built up thoughts help a warrior mentally, but it allows Sportsmen For Warriors to pin down the specific needs of an individual moving forward. From this point, they are able to determine the best ways to grow a warriors support base, help them network, and further support their healing.
Ben brings up numerous examples on why time spent hunting in the field promotes conversation and new memories, many of which we can all relate to… assuming if you’re here reading this, you are likely seasoned in the outdoors. But there’s one concept that stuck with me, one that many of us will likely never be able to relate to. “For a lot of these guys, their only memories of the mountains are firefights in the mountains of Afghanistan”, says Ben. “For them to come home and have the opportunity to create positive mental relationships with familiar surroundings is huge.”
Beyond healing through conversation and memory-making, Sportsmen For Warriors takes pride in their ability to bridge the gap between military leadership skills and job requirements within the civilian workforce. According to Bateman, many employers tend to overlook applicants who lack traditional credentials such as a Bachelors or Masters degree. With help from Sportsmen For Warriors, veterans on the hunt for quality jobs learn to tailor their resumes to show how their on-the-ground leadership skills in the military can directly translate to what a given employer is looking for in their workplace. Furthermore, Bateman and his team actively seek out job openings that fit the unique skill set of any given warrior in the program. Achieving a fulfilling civilian career path goes a long way in the quality of life for our veterans and their families.
During our phone call, I asked Ben what the average guy can do to help or support a veteran on the casual encounter level. He explained “Lots of people simply ‘thank a veteran’. While it’s a nice gesture, taking it one step further can make a difference. Ask them for a story, ask them where they went, or what they learned. Showing a veteran that you care to make a deeper connection goes much further than a passive ‘Thank You’.”
If you would like to join KUIU in supporting Sportsmen For Warriors with time, talent, or funds, Ben Bateman can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 719-313-6719. The organization’s goal is to provide support and outdoor opportunities to 30 warriors in 2015. Warriors accepted into the program are not limited to military personnel, as they also accept applications from Police, Firemen, and EMS men and women.
Tee Shirt Drive
Sportsmen For Warriors is currently running a Tee Shirt fundraiser. They need to sell 31 more shirts by April 12, 2015 to meet their goal. Shirts are $20 and all proceeds will go toward getting more warriors into the field. There is a donor who will match the total sales raised in this event. Follow the link below if interested in participating:
As always, thank you for reading.