The 3rd Annual Camp Valor Outdoors Spring Fishing Classic hosted eight veterans this week, which ranged from wounded warriors from the Vietnam War to Iraq/Afghanistan conflict veterans.
Camp Valor Outdoors Founder/Executive Director Major John T. Schwent, Jr., USMC (Ret.) said the events have been awesome.
“We were hosted by the S Bar F Scout Ranch for our 3rd Annual Spring Fishing Classic,” said Schwent. “Everybody has come together to put on a great three-day event for our warriors to come together and it’s awesome.”
Schwent said the town of Farmington, the police departments, the state police, and the Patriot Guard escorted the warriors to the Leadbelt Gun Club and also to the scout ranch.
“The fire department brought the big fire truck and put a big flag over Karsch Blvd.,” said Schwent. “The patriotism that is in Farmington is just amazing as we honor these guys every year. It’s just incredible.”
He added the skeet and trap tournament is a fun shoot because most military guys don’t shoot a lot of shotguns, so it’s more of an introduction.
“They get to learn the fun of the shooting sport and everyone shot a round of trap and a round of skeet,” Schwent said Friday. “We all like to compete, so there is a competition component and although we aren’t hitting very many clays, the high guy will win. It’s fun and the guys are having a blast.”
Iraq/Afghanistan Veteran Army Staff Sgt. Larry Hatfield from Beulah said he wouldn’t ever leave the house if it weren’t for events such as this.
“I don’t go shopping myself or anything, I send my wife or kids,” said Hatfield. “I won’t leave the house. If I could stay on my own property, I would never leave my house. John (Schwent) had found out that I pretty much became reclusive and stayed to myself. I built myself a little cabin out in the woods and that is where I lived at, away from my family. I had a hard time dealing with a lot of issues.”
Hatfield said Schwent reached out to him and told him he was willing to help Hatfield, but he had to want to help himself.
“I was like, ‘yeah, I am tired of this’ and I couldn’t figure out why I had become so secluded,” said Hatfield. “If it wasn’t for John (Schwent) I would probably be sitting at home. This man has taken me all over the country so far shooting. Just the overwhelming support we get from the communities is surprising.”
Hatfield said when he was medically retired from the military he felt that no one cared anymore and he felt he was used up and tossed away like a broken toy.
“John said you aren’t a broken toy and we are going to fix you,” said Hatfield. “I speak highly of the man because he does a lot of good. He turned his own home in to a camp for us and it’s better than a five-star hotel. Everything we could ever want is there and he has done most of this in his own pocket.”
Hatfield said that is why it is so important they get donations, to keep it going for not only himself, but other veterans they reach out to.
“Now I just made some more lifelong friends and if they ever need me they can just call me up,” said Hatfield. “We don’t share our stories with people who haven’t been in the military, because you wouldn’t understand. Everybody has a stigma about PTSD. It’s not a disease, it’s an injury and it should be called PTSI.”
Hatfield said the only way to overcome it is to heal and you will never quite overcome it though. He added Schwent organized this whole thing on his own from the start.
“He puts in 100 percent of his time and his father, brother and son goes out on hunts with us,” said Hatfield. “John is always there for the wounded warriors and he is a hell of a guy. If you ever need anything all you have to do is call him up if you are a veteran.”
Event Coordinator Dave Oder said the local veterans’ organizations in the area supported this event.
“They ran point with every bit of the food stuff, the buildings we had, the trailers to serve food out of during the event,” said Oder. “The Patriot Guard was huge. They escorted us from VFW in Farmington to the scout ranch. The Farmington Fire Department, the highway patrol, Desloge Police, Leadington Police and Park Hills Police have all escorted these guys around town.”
Oder said it has all been pretty neat. He added without Schwent, his organization, and his leadership they would be in a bind.
“What he does for these guys … 400 is the number he has in his head, but he has helped a lot more than that,” said Oder. “You have guys from all over the country that is hearing about this. I have called him about a couple of guys who has needed some help. I am not an expert in talking to people about PTSD. He is. He has dealt with these guys for a long time. Without his leading this, it never would have happened.”
Schwent said if you are a veteran or know of a veteran who ill, injured or wounded, who may be struggling and can benefit from these services that they provide for free for them, contact Camp Valor Outdoors directly at 816-898-8311.
“I know there are a lot more that we aren’t reaching,” said Schwent. “There’s a lot of those (National Guard) guys who deploy who are struggling. They won’t get out of the house, they don’t know what to do, they’re not working, they are usually on the bottle or they take prescription meds. That is the community we are trying to reach.”
Schwent said often times the spouse will call them because their husband is struggling and he needs some help. That’s the majority of the phone calls they get. It’s not the veterans themselves.
“I hope they read this article and reach out to us,” said Schwent. “We do so many different things other than reconnecting in outdoors through hunting, fishing, shooting and archery. There is also family retreats to help strengthen the husband and wife and there is marital counseling. We have many connections here in Missouri for that whole side of it as well.”
Schwent said this program has really grown from just reconnecting in the outdoors to meeting all these other needs and finding resources to help strengthen the warrior family.
Camp Valor Outdoors is a non-profit organization with a mission to recognize and honor wounded veterans and their families with the opportunity to participate in competitive outdoor activities with dignity and respect while assisting them with the skills and motivation to overcome their injuries. The group is working with the Boy Scouts of America, the Leadbelt Gun Club, Military Mama Network, UPVETS and local VFW, DAV, American Legion and AMVETS organizations for three days of outdoor fun and competition.
Schwent said they are thankful for the organizations that helped them again this year.
For more information, please contact UPVETS/Dave Oder at 573-631-4393 or Camp Valor Outdoors/John Schwent 816-898-8311.
Check out www.campvaloroutdoors.org for more information and like them on Facebook to find out how you can get more involved in helping wounded veterans here in Missouri.
Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or firstname.lastname@example.org