Two of my compatriots from Sisters, Oregon, are operating in Arizona Territory right now. They are in the heart of Apacheria, down near the Mexican border, working under the auspices of the Border Patrol and agents of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, dismantling and cleaning up cartel and coyote smuggling sites and doing related work.
This is a project of Warfighter Outfitters, which was founded by Brett Miller and is based out of Sisters. Brett was serving with the Oregon National Guard during some of the worst times in Iraq when he was severely wounded in an IED attack. The blast left him with a traumatic brain injury and PTS. He’s battled back with the help of the Wounded Warrior Project, and has founded his own veterans outreach, Warfighter Outfitters. That program helps wounded and disabled veterans by getting them out on the flyfishing waters and into the hunting field and camp where they can feel strong and alive and connect with other veterans. No charge. Any veteran with a disability rating is welcome to any of their trips under the principle that “if you can get here, we will get you on the water or in the woods.”
The Warfighter Outfitters “engagement” program — like the work on the border — puts veterans back in a “tactical” team environment and allows them to experience the sense of mission and purpose and unit cohesion that can be so important to a man and often goes missing in civilian life.
And they talk to each other, which can be the most effective form of counseling there is.
My respect for Brett and all he has accomplished in this valuable work exceeds my ability to articulate.
Craig Rullman accompanied Brett down to Arizona, an embedded reporter covering the mission for The Nugget Newspaper (and hopefully a range of other publications).
I confess to a tinge of editor’s blues — assigning a story that I’d really like to be doing myself. But in truth everything is exactly as it should be. These are rightly veterans-only endeavors — that’s crucial to the program — and Craig is exactly the right man for the job. Not simply because he’s a veteran (and also a former dope cop intimately familiar with the impact of the Mexican cartels in the U.S.), but because he can tell these men’s stories with insight and the kind of writing chops they deserve. Craig is filing regular dispatches from the canyons where Geronimo rode and the ocotillo blooms over at The Bunkhouse Chronicle. You should be following that blog anyway, but if you’re not, this is a good time to start.
And I’ll link up his coverage on The Nugget web site next week.
(Note: Brett and Craig shared the Redmond-Portland-Phoenix flight with my wife Marilyn, who is off to a medical conference, on a severely messed up travel day — see Craig’s post “Ajo.” She enjoyed their company a great deal. And, after a rather unpleasant landing of the puddle-jumper in Portland, she appreciated Brett’s perspective: After surviving two helicopter crashes overseas, that landing was entirely satisfactory.)