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Camp Valor Outdoors makes a difference

Camp Valor Outdoors held their three-day annual event this week helping several veterans reconnect with the outdoors.

Camp Valor Outdoors Founder/Executive Director Major John T. Schwent, Jr., USMC (retired) said this year’s event was in memory of a warrior who had participated in the event in the past.

“One of our warriors, Greg “Cowboy” Grass, from last year, was so moved by what we did. He had contacts out in Montana and he guided a trout fishing event for us last year,” Schwent said. “Then this past fall he took a Vietnam veteran on an elks tour, he really wanted to give back. In January he was on vacation with his son in Dallas and suffered a brain aneurysm.”

Schwent said they lost a great warrior, someone who was giving back to other veterans. They hoped to remember him through this year’s event.

This year's Camp Valor Outdoor hats feature a past warrior who is being remembered.

This year’s Camp Valor Outdoor hats feature a past warrior who is being remembered.

Camp Valor Outdoors has grown and is now operating in 16 states putting on events. They average helping 300 to 350 warriors a year and more than 1,000 plus since they began in 2013.

“This year’s event has been awesome and the community outpouring of support has been phenomenal,” Schwent said. “This event we put on costs about $7,500 and this year we raised all of that through community support. We had 10 warriors slated, but we had two fall out due to medical issues. We have had good weather and caught more than 500 fish. We had a big fish fry last night for all of these warriors and the community came out to have dinner with them.”

Schwent said they appreciate the veterans for their service and out of the eight warriors, five of them are Vietnam Veterans. He said they have all had a wonderful time. They were also able to “pre-fish” so they knew where to go during the tournament.

“They are having a good time today shooting the shotguns and they are getting into their comfort zone,” Schwent said. “In active duty we have a mission, we always need to have a mission, and a lot of times when veterans get out they don’t know what to do and have no mission. So if we can help them find a new mission in life and connect them to other veterans, whether it’s fishing or hunting or whatever it may be, do it with another vet.”

Camp Valor Outdoors participant Tony Harrison, of Farmington, served in the U.S. Army during the Gulf War and this was his first time experiencing what Camp Valor Outdoors has to offer, as a warrior.

“Last year I came out as part of the Patriot Guard and I thought it was an honor to do something like this,” said Harrison. “I wanted to participate in it so I talked to Frank Ramirez and he connected me with John (Schwent). It has been very pleasant and I have enjoyed myself as a disabled veteran.”

Veteran Tony Harrison, of Farmington, fires a shot in a skeet tournament as part of Camp Valor Outdoors' three-day event.

Veteran Tony Harrison, of Farmington, fires a shot in a skeet tournament as part of Camp Valor Outdoors’ three-day event.

Harrison said the event really helped him to relax by being in the outdoors with fellow veterans. He said that it really helped them calm down, especially for all of those who suffer from PTSD.

“For me, I have memories of the Gulf War and the Battle of 73 Easting … of four tanks that went into the smoke and that was when everything just went haywire,” Harrison recalled. “Being with my fellow comrades here, it really helped to bring me down to earth.”

Harrison said he doesn’t go to the shopping malls because of what he had seen during the war. It still bothers him and he really tries to stay out of huge crowds.

While reconnecting with nature is part of the event, some veterans have never spent much time outdoors, so they are experiencing things for the first time. That was the case for Harrison, who had never been freshwater fishing before participating in this year’s event.

“I grew up in Florida and always fished saltwater fish,” said Harrison. “So I never knew how to fish in fresh water for crappie and bass.”

Harrison managed to sweep everyone away in the fishing tournament and won in three blocks overall. He attributes his success to beginner’s luck and is excited to be able to share his new knowledge with his children.

“Now I can take my kids out to go fishing and hopefully I can send them home with a smile because I know how to do this know,” said Harrison. “No one ever showed me how to fresh fish until now and this has made a big difference. They also do a lot for those with physical disabilities. They had a big pontoon boat out there and they were able to get out there to fish.”

Vietnam Veteran Steve Taylor, of Meta, said Schwent and his volunteers are doing a wonderful thing for veterans like himself.

Vietnam Veteran Steve Taylor, of Meta, enjoys an afternoon of shooting with other veterans. Looking on is James Bullock of the Leadbelt Gun Club. 

Vietnam Veteran Steve Taylor, of Meta, enjoys an afternoon of shooting with other veterans. Looking on is James Bullock of the Leadbelt Gun Club. 

“With never having been welcomed home in a proper manner, the parade when we left the (Farmington) VFW (Thursday) … I don’t cry, but it was so moving that the town was behind this. It was amazing,” said Taylor. “I couldn’t help myself, I had tears running down my face and I don’t cry.”

Taylor said he was brought up by a marine from World War II and was raised to be tough as nails. He stressed if it wouldn’t have been for Schwent starting the program he wouldn’t feel as good as he does today.

“I had a smile on the whole time,” said Taylor. “This has helped me immensely because I don’t go out much. I don’t like being around people, I really don’t like going to Walmart. This has opened up my soul to help others now. There are a bunch of people who would benefit from this.”

Marine Corp Veteran Tim Sherman, of Cleveland, Ohio, said he stays home and works a lot. He wasn’t sure at first about coming out for the event.

“I was very reluctant at first, but once I got here I found my element,” said Sherman. “This is a great thing they are doing and everybody has been helping out. It’s been awesome. I didn’t know how to fish and they have taught me so much.”

Marine Corp Veteran Tim Sherman, of Cleveland, Ohio, has really opened up to the outdoors during the Camp Valor Outdoors event.

Marine Corp Veteran Tim Sherman, of Cleveland, Ohio, has really opened up to the outdoors during the Camp Valor Outdoors event.

Sherman is a regional director for Amvets for the disability claims. He said being able to talk about this is going to be awesome. He said his boss told him he needed to take some time off and got him out here for the event.

“This has just been great. I feel relaxed and really good,” said Sherman. “There was no time that I wanted to roll over and go back to bed. I wanted to come out here and it has been really great. With me not wanting to go outside I took away from my kids a lot and I hope to at least be able to take my youngest son fishing now because they taught me how to do it.”

Sherman said by attending this event he has been taught a lot more and will be talking to a lot more veterans about the organization. 

Next year’s Camp Valor Outdoors event will be April 24-26 and if anyone would like to support the 2019 event they can reach out to the American Legion or VFW in Leadington and Farmington. For more information on how to participate visit Camp Valor Outdoors Facebook page or visit www.campvaloroutdoors.org.

This year’s Camp Valor Outdoors sponsors include Johnny’s Barber Shop, UPVETS, Project Warrior X, Cedar Falls Tactical, VFW Post 2426, Greg Mills, Legion Post 416 & Aux, VFW Post 5741 and Aux, BLET Div. 42 Union, D’Vine Salon, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 12, Auto Plaza, Alton & Southern Railroad, Parkland Monuments, VFW Post 5896 & Aux, Belk Investments, Unico Bank, Signs Etc., H&R Block, Little Caesars, Holiday Inn Express, Barreto Family, Desloge Chiropractic and VFW District 8 Riders.

Several veterans participate in this year's Camp Valor Outdoors three-day event. On the last day they were able to shoot trap and skeet at the Lead Belt Gun Club.

Several veterans participate in this year’s Camp Valor Outdoors three-day event. On the last day they were able to shoot trap and skeet at the Lead Belt Gun Club.

Renee Bronaugh is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3617 or rbronaugh@dailyjournalonline.com

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