Camp4Heroes Building a Sanctuary for Our Veterans
A young veteran is sitting at a bar drinking whiskey. Another is in his car with a pistol by his side. Another cries in the woods. Still another looks at a pill bottle. A young woman has a shotgun on her lap. They’re all in pain. They all want to die. And they will.
We have an epidemic in this country and it’s called veteran suicide. As many as 20 veterans - or more - will take their own lives today ... and tomorrow ... and the next day. They all want to exorcise the mental hell caused by trauma from a variety of things - abuse, combat and/or the stress war has put on them.
While America tries to figure out how to end this tragic syndrome, there are some people out there doing something about it. Camp4Heroes is one such group of people.
Camp4Heroes was a dream of Capt. John Woodall, a retired Raleigh, N.C., fire captain who has devoted his life since 9/11 to our wounded/recovering veterans of the war on terror. He dreamed of a place where veterans could be with each other, share their experiences over a campfire and help each other heal.
Camp4Heroes is 184 acres of serenity in Fairmont, N.C., a rural area once fruitful with tobacco and now a poor farming community that still retains its pride and patriotism. It lies about 20 minutes south of Robeson County seat Lumberton, and is less than an hour’s drive from Fort Bragg or Camp Lejeune. In essence, it is in the heart of military North Carolina.
Once a hunting lodge, the main lodge on the property is the center of activity right now at the camp. Its façade sports a beautiful American flag painting by patriotic artist Scott LoBaido.
A half-mile down a gated asphalt road is 10-acre Lake Elliott, full of bass and surrounded by woods and fields. A picnic shelter was built by the lake, along with a brick campfire pit and a swing. A chapel will be built overlooking the lake and will house a music studio.
There are currently three cabins in various stages of construction. The “Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon” cabin is completed and has already had its first visitors. Next to it is the Bergen County American Legion cabin, about 2/3 completed and awaiting funds to finish it. The third cabin, the “Cannata Report and US Bank” cabin, has a foundation and will soon see more construction.
An outdoor kitchen is erected near the cabins. Vets and their families will eat their breakfasts and lunches there. They’ll probably gather their own eggs from the chickens at the camp. Next to the kitchen an outdoor shower/laundry/bathroom facility is being built. A bivuouac area for tents and RV hookups is nearby. So if vets want to pitch a tent and camp out, they have comfortable facilities to stay clean and do their laundry.
A large Wellness Center is in the plans. It would house a commercial kitchen, art studio, area for dining/meeting for 50 and an exercise room. A 20’x30’ American flag that comforted wounded soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in Afghanistan’s Warrior’s Way at Craig Joint Theater Hospital will find a new home in the great room.
A barn and two-acre paddock face the cabins. There are two therapy horses there, along with two goats. They provide lots of love for our visiting veterans, who can interact, feed or take care of them. The horses can even be ridden.
Camp4Heroes is being run by Capt. Woody, his son John and Secretary/Treasurer Kaye Zumbrennan. Three other charities also support the Camp – Truckin4Troops, the Fire Family Transport Foundation of the FDNY and Adopt-a-Soldier Platoon (AaSP). Besides building the first cabin on the property, AaSP helped develop the property by donating over $100,000 for improvements. AaSP also brought along corporate benefactor Unilever, which donated furniture and appliances well over $50,000; and connected Camp4Heroes with the Cannata Report and US Bank, which built the outdoor kitchen and is building the third cabin. AaSP’s president Alan Krutchkoff, former service officer for American Legion Post 171 in Fair Lawn, N.J., also connected the Bergen County (NJ) American Legion with the camp. Consequently, the second cabin is being built by the Big Bees of Bergen County.
“This is one of the best projects we’ve gotten involved with,” said Bob Salvini, Bergen County commander. “Our posts are losing members and new members are not joining so fast. This is a great way to save lives and rejuvenate American Legions throughout the country.”
It is hoped that more Legion posts, including those from North Carolina and neighboring South Carolina, for example, would help build cabins or donated toward the Wellness Center. It’s time to provide our wounded/recovering veterans with a sanctuary where they can enjoy some peace, learn to cook, fish, forge a knife, paint, weld, mow fields, or just relax and know Americans care about them and understand their pain.
In other words, Camp4Heroes is being built to bring veterans together. Help them heal ... together ... bring their brotherhood and the best of what the military meant for them all back. We urge our Legion brothers and sisters to help.
The author is Alan Krutchkoff, a USAF Vietnam-era veteran and former service officer for American Legion Post 171, Fair Lawn, N.J.
You can contact Bob Salvini at email@example.com or 201-368-3453.
You can contact Captain Woody at 919-291-3441 or email captainJwoody@camp4heroes.org. Camp4Heroes is a 501(c)(3) public charity.