Cypress Creek Hunting Lodge in South Carolina is becoming a refuge for Freedom Alliance veterans. Dan, the owner, and the others at the lodge have hosted our guests for two hunts during the last year, and they recently took in six of combat vets for a short-but-sweet hog hunt in April.
During a battle in Iraq, Josh was hit in the hand by a mortar round. He was subsequently transferred to various hospitals until the surgical team at Duke attempted a procedure to save the hand. When nothing worked, and Josh’s life was in danger because of it, they finally amputated the hand.
Josh, who stays home with his three-year-old son, was keen to get out into nature. He brought his own gun, which his wife had given him for his birthday, and he was one of the soldiers who took home a hog.
“Thank you for bringing me back to life,” he told Freedom Alliance.
Jacob, a three-time Purple Heart recipient, became fast friends with Josh. During combat in Iraq, he took shrapnel in his leg, which causes the muscle to spasm. He and his wife applied to be foster parents seven years ago, and today, they have nine children in the house!
“God had a master plan for our lives,” said Jacob, “and He certainly knew what we and those kids needed.” The couple has had one child of their own and adopted five of their foster children. They are currently in the process of trying to adopt 18-month-old twins. “It’s hard and emotional…. We just want the best for them,” he said.
While on foot patrol in Iraq, Sean encountered an explosion. When he ran to the aid of an injured comrade, he was hit by a projectile in the hip. That same year, on a separate patrol, he was thrown against a wall and pelted by shrapnel when another explosive device detonated.
These three—Josh, Jacob, and Sean—had the Iraq combat in common, and they bonded upon meeting. Being able to talk honestly about their deployments and trauma with others who had been there was a healing experience for them.
Clarence is a National Guard soldier who lost his leg in Iraq when his tank rolled over an explosive. “My prosthetic is my good leg,” he explained. With 21 pins in his right leg, you can tell by looking at it that the injury causes him a lot of pain.
Clarence was a patient at Walter Reed for several years before he came home to South Carolina to work on his family’s farm, growing cotton, peanuts, vegetables, and livestock.
Ed is a 24-year veteran of the U.S. Army and served in Desert Storm as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was the only survivor when the Blackhawk helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. And although he lives with head and back injuries from the crash, he must also deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he said is the worst consequence of the accident. (It turned out that Ed knew Sean from the Warrior Games, which is where injured vets compete in Olympic-type events each year in Colorado Springs. This surprise reunion started the hunt on a good note.)
Wayne and Matt were our other guests, both soldiers dealing with injuries—physical and mental—from the war. Both love to hunt, and being at Cypress Creek was very therapeutic. When the pain was too much, the men grew quiet, but it was a good environment for them to be in, casual and curative.
“Staying busy like this really helps me,” Clarence admitted.
There was an evening hunt to commence the vacation, and the next morning, the men headed off to the ponds to do some fishing or shoot skeet at the rifle range. In between activities, a lot of chatting and mutual support ensued.
While the veterans were hunting during the day, a barbecue was being prepared at the lodge, along with a campfire and a local band to entertain. That night, all feasted on chicken and ribs, while the band played and some of the fellows danced and sang along!
The Cypress Creek community, a town called Estill, had set out collection cups and raised $250 for Freedom Alliance programs, which they presented us during the soiree. One of the women who organized the collection had lost her brother four years ago in Afghanistan; her son is currently deployed, and she shared how much American soldiers mean to her.
Frank, a Vietnam vet, sang with the band that evening, and later presented our guests with gun-cleaning kits. Before leaving, he led the group in one last hymn, singing “God Bless America.”
This got the guys talking and expressing appreciation for their time at Cypress Creek. For them it was more than a hunt—it was an opportunity to be with other service members, something they don’t often get to do.
During that special moment, Jacob said, “I never get a chance to get out…. I just can’t thank you enough for inviting me. I truly feel like I’ve won the lottery.”