A worthy project

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Greatest Generation 2.0 is currently in production and with suicide and divorce rates skyrocketing it’s time to give back.
I was proud to be able to participate in some small way Friday night at the Vicksburg Tallulah Regional Airport. After the twilight air show, the Southern Heritage Air Foundation held a dinner for sponsors, veterans, and wounded warriors.
I was proud to stand and applaud as the World War II veterans were announced along with their experiences during the war. The evening was punctuated with singing and performing by “The Victory Belles” from the World War II Museum in New Orleans.
Then came the real reason everyone was there, the testimony from the men of the Wounded Warrior Bonfire Project. The hangar grew silent as three veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan spoke about the healing process that began with their participation in the project.
I had the pleasure of serving in the Army in the early ’90s during a relatively peaceful period. The Army did instill in me a “can do” attitude and a “Gung Ho” spirit. Problems are just obstacles to overcome. However, I was never wounded in combat.
As the men spoke, one thing resonated with me that all three men touched on. They talked about how they kept being told the things they wouldn’t or couldn’t do again. The same Army that instilled “no quit” in generations of men was telling these men that their problems were too big to overcome.
It was during an air show two years ago that Dan Fordice happened to cross paths with a veteran who shared a secret with him on the flight back home. It was a secret so profound and yet so simple that it launched the Warrior Bonfire Project. Chuck Williams, a survivor of a combat-related brain injury in Afghanistan in 2006, was the inspiration for the bonfire group. He told Fordice that he could spend eight hours talking to a licensed therapist, but one hour around a bonfire with his buddies did more than any therapy ever could. As Fordice let him out of the plane, he told him that he would be back to get him and he would provide the bonfire.
The project started as soon as Fordice got back to Vicksburg and organized a deer hunt with six veterans that blossomed into a statewide nonprofit dedicated to building friendships among veterans while providing them with a therapeutic release for the scars that war leaves behind.
The military takes men and women into war and returns them changed forever by the things of war. Unequipped for life after combat and the effects of injuries, many veterans get divorced and plummet into depression.
Combat leaves physical scars and most veterans can deal with those. It’s the invisible scars that the military doesn’t equip its members to deal with. That’s where the Warrior Bonfire Project and other veterans’ organizations come into play.
We owe them our very freedom, the least I can do is shake their hand, thank them for their service, stand and applaud or donate to a worthy cause.

Paul Barry is the managing editor and can be reached by email at paul.barry@vicksburgpost.com or by phone at 601-636-4545 ext. 123.

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