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Veterans' Healing through Hunting

Mammoth Sniper Challenge
Mammoth Sniper Challenge
February 20, 2017
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Jesse Mudd hadn't planned to head up a charity when he set up his first hunt with a friend he had deployed with. But in just a few years, Veterans 4 Veterans Outdoor Adventures has grown into a full-fledged charity that helps Veterans come together, get outside, and get connected back into the brotherhood.[caption id="attachment_10414" align="aligncenter" width="960"]


Help Others, Help Yourself.

Jesse's last day off was Christmas; even then, he spent the morning with his family, and then got back to work. It's exhausting, but he isn't phased by the grind."I work at it seven days a week; it's a volunteer position. I [also] work a full-time job that's very very demanding, a lot of hours," he told me."When I stay's what I need. It helps me, helping other people," he continued. "I go 100% of the time."

Before starting Vets4Vets, Jesse was at rock bottom. The transition out of the military is a rough road for so many veterans, and it had led Jesse to drink and a contentious marriage. But when he set out to reconnect with Nick Kimmel, a man that he had deployed with, the experience launched a movement.Nick is a triple amputee, after an IED took both legs and his arm. Jesse wanted to arrange an all-expenses-paid hunt for him, to lend his friend a hand. But while talking taxes with his attorney, a much bigger plan unfolded to create a 501(c)(3) that would impact the lives of more veterans.

Now, Vets4Vets offers organized hunts, camping, hiking, fishing, and a myriad of trips and activities for veterans and their families. And the impact is quickly showing.Take Kenneth Heald for example; he started as a participant in a hunt and has since become a board member and director for the charity. Drinking, divorce, and suicidal thoughts had plagued his life before Vets4Vets. The impact of his experience was so strong, he threw himself headfirst into becoming part of the volunteer leadership for the charity. Jesse called Kenneth's transformation a "night and day difference."

The Outdoor Experience

Jesse has always found solace in the outdoors. "It's kind of my happy place," he told me. When veterans are selected for a hunt, Vets4Vets works hard to make sure that that sense of peace and relaxation starts right when they leave."It doesn't cost anything. If you get selected... we cover all the expenses from the time you leave your house, to the time you get back to your house," Jesse said. From there, the solitude and ability to reconnect with others provide incredibly profound healing for many people."There's been tears shared out there, we laugh out there, everybody's different. Every story is unique," he saidIf you don't want to hunt, the charity organizes other events for people to participate in. Most recently, they've begun offering equine therapy and riding excursions for Vets. Jesse told me that the opportunity came from his daughter's love of horses."I wanted to get her riding lessons," he said, and volunteered yet more of his limited hours at a local place in exchange. During his time there, he found out the owner was desperate to find people who would ride the horses, and the relationship took off from there.

Camping, boating, fishing, and a myriad of other activities are available for participants. "We have so much to offer in North Central Kansas, you can do whatever you want," he said.But at the end of the day, the hunting is just the activity. It's the connections that participants make that makes a difference. Jesse summed it up like this:"We're not gonna guarantee you your limit, we're never gonna guarantee you a trophy buck. What we are gonna guarantee you is, you're going to meet a connection of like-minded veterans. You're going to be able to destress and decompress. You're going to go home with friendships, phone numbers in your phone. You're going to have someone that you can contact... if it's midnight and you need somebody to call... that's what it's all about."You can learn more about Vets4Vets by visiting their website and following them on social media.

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