Combat Warriors descend upon Ellerbe

Event is one of many therapeutic outdoor rec opportunities for combat vets

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

* Photo gallery – Nearly 500 pics!

ELLERBE — It was a deep sea fishing trip. But for an Army infantry captain at Fort Bragg, it was much more than that.

“For me,” Ross White told Combat Warriors Inc., “I hadn’t had the opportunity to talk about a lot of down range experiences with my brother up to this point, so getting to do so on the trip was something I will never forget and will always be thankful for.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

More than 80 American combat veterans spent Saturday at DeWitt’s Outdoor Sports for a family-friendly hunting and shooting experience with spouses, children and friends in tow. Between a pheasant hunt, shooting clays, food and inflatable slides for the younger visitors, it was a day to relax and appreciate all the good things in life.

White knows about good things. And bad things. The Army veteran, like any other veteran assisted by Combat Warrior, has been in the thick of things. Bill Warren, co-founder of the Wake Forest-based nonprofit and a Vietnam veteran, explained the difference between a soldier and a warrior.

The nonprofit arranges hunting and fishing excursions throughout the Carolinas and as far away as Texas, Warren said, “for our warriors that have been wounded or been in heavy combat.”

“Just because someone wasn’t shot doesn’t mean he was not injured,” Warren said.

Outdoor recreation trips such as the ones scheduled through Combat Warriors help prevent combat veterans from facing the demons themselves, Warren said. Fellow vets on the same hunting or fishing trip “have faced the demons as they have faced the demons,” and the camaraderie helps everyone through “the fog of war.”

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Warren helped start the nonprofit four years ago.

“We knew when we held the first one it’d be therapeutic, we just didn’t know how much.”

Chris DeWitt, owner of DeWitt’s Outdoor Sports, said this is the second year the Combat Warriors group has scheduled an outing at the 65-acre facility, which Warren said was ideal for location, parking, a variety of activities and, in hot weather like Saturday offered, a cool place for everyone to go indoors when needed. Warren said he’s hopeful this event turns into an annual excursion. DeWitt said he accommodates between 10 and 12 similar outings from other groups each year.

Warren said Combat Warriors, operated by an all-volunteer board of directors, covers the cost of everything once the veteran arrives on site — food, lodging, the activity and anything else the veteran or their family members might need.

“All they have to do is get here,” Warren said.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Warren said the nonprofit volunteers accept donations and expressed gratitude for corporate support from Big Rock Sports. For the past two years, the company has been the nonprofit’s largest financial supporter. Because of corporate restrictions, however, Combat Warriors is not eligible to receive assistance for at least one year in order to allow other groups to be considered for assistance, Warren said.

The group also helps widows of fallen combat veterans in ways that range from making house payments to assisting children of fallen veterans

One way or another, Warren said he and fellow board members find new avenues of support. After all, “we have great demand.”

He said there is a need for an organization like Combat Warriors because far too many veterans don’t seek the help they feel they need from the Department of Veterans Affairs. After all, once inside such a facility, a report must be filed.

“We could help many guys who are not going to the VA because they are scared what the VA will do to them,” Warren said.

If veterans returning from combat told psychiatrists what was really on their minds, Warren said, doctors would  take away their guns and lock the vets in an asylum. That might not be the best first step in helping to gain their trust.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com

Warren addressed potential friction between the type of help and public image of today’s combat veterans compared to veterans from the Vietnam era. A fellow Vietnam vet suggested today’s veterans receive too much attention and support. Nonsense, Warren said.

“They deserve everything we can give ’em, to me,” Warren said, even though when he came from from Vietnam in 1972 as a sergeant, he “wasn’t treated so nice.”

“Because they didn’t do it for us doesn’t mean we don’t want it for them,” Warren said. “We didn’t receive the treatment these guys are receiving.”

At best, Vietnam veterans were forgotten about. When they were remembered, they were harassed, spat upon and called baby killers.

While he faced enemy fire, Warren said he wasn’t facing a daily barrage of mortars or enemy attacks. As an infantryman assigned to a military police unit, he had to worry about convoys long before the days of the impact of improvised explosive devices were on CNN every other hour.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Combat veteran Andrew Warner, of Fayetteville, takes a shot during the pheasant hunt at DeWitt's Outdoor Sports.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Combat veteran Andrew Warner, of Fayetteville, takes a shot during the pheasant hunt at DeWitt’s Outdoor Sports.

“There are two types of guys,” Warren said, “warrior and soldier. “I was a soldier. I was not a warrior like these guys.”

But he’s doing his level best to support today’s warriors in any way possible.

Submitted photo A group photo taken before the start of the pheasant hunt.

Submitted photo
A group photo taken before the start of the pheasant hunt.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Isaac Warner, 6, retrieves a pheasant brought down by his father during a Combat Warriors outing on Saturday in Ellerbe.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Isaac Warner, 6, retrieves a pheasant brought down by his father during a Combat Warriors outing on Saturday in Ellerbe.

Filed in: Business, Featured News, Latest Headlines, Military and Veterans, News, Outdoors

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