A brotherhood of veterans
Story and photos by Leigh Lofgren
For men and women in uniform, military camaraderie is as long as recorded history, and that brotherhood is what keeps many continuing their service until retirement age. For one Army lieutenant colonel, he wanted to rekindle that bond with veterans no longer in uniform.
After a time of spending his own money to take veterans hunting, retired Lt. Col. Frank Adkinson founded Wild Jaeger Veteran Adventures 10 years ago. Soldiers share the strains of fatigue, mission focus, family separation, sore muscles – and this gives them a bond the civilian sector cannot fully appreciate. There are many veterans who need to reconnect to that brotherhood after fighting 20 years of terrorism, he said.
The nonprofit organization offers a wide range of fully funded outdoor activities to include hunting, golf, hiking, fishing, and paddleboarding. Adkinson said that when veterans show up for an event everyone is a stranger, but by the end of the first day, they are joking and giving each other a hard time. The “hard time” is a huge part of the military culture, he said.
(Below is a slideshow of weigh-in smiles, click the arrows to see other pictures)
Military personnel value leadership, duty, responsibility, selfless service, honor and courage – it’s something ingrained into you as a way of life, Adkinson explained. After an event, they can take that feeling of brotherhood home, knowing it always will be there, he said, and that is something most veterans cannot find once leaving the service.
That deep undercurrent of brotherhood, he said, “I have your back, and you have mine” is something they need to be reminded about. “These outdoor adventures work,” he said. “We see it all the time.”
Along with assisting veterans, the association provides an important relational role between the military and civilian community. Lessons learned from past wars, Adkinson said, show that nothing helps a veteran more than when the people who sent him or her into combat demonstrate their appreciation and support. This is important in a veteran’s healing process, he explained.
This connection between the two communities also helps the civilians to learn about the military. “The will of the people must be informed by the sons and daughters they send into harm’s way to protect national interests,” Adkinson said. “The result we are seeing is the civilians learn that veterans still serve their community outside of the military.”
In addition to being president of WJVA, Lt. Col. Adkinson is the senior Army instructor for the Putnam County High School Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corp program, a board member of the Military Officers Association of America Old Chapter, a member of Rotary International, and the Order of Saint Maurice.
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This story appeared in Lakelife magazine, Volume 17, Issue 6 and is the property of Smith Communications, Inc. No portions of the story or photos may be copied or used without written consent from the publisher.