Veterans from Iowa and around the Midwest who suffer from major traumatic injuries after combat are spending this week at the Honey Creek Resort at Lake Rathbun in southern Iowa.
Iowa Department of Natural Resources spokesman, Alex Murphy, says this is the second year Iowa has hosted the “Veterans Casting Away Disabilities” event. “This gives them an opportunity to come down and fish for the entire week here at Honey Creek Resort,” Murphy explains. “They get to stay at the resort and each night there is a campfire and a dinner and some presentations. It is just a chance for them to live a normal life.”
The program was created by the Veterans Affairs Department and the DNR partners with them to help the veterans participate. He says a lot of the veterans come with a caretaker and then there are dozens of volunteers, along with the DNR staff who help with the program. “We come down and we help clean the fish, or we are boat buddies and help them on and off the boats,” Murphy says. Murphy says the event lets the veterans enjoy something they might not always get to experience. He says it has another purpose as well.
“We also say it is for the caretakers, because at the same time they are also going through major life changes of having to constantly be there to help of
these veterans,” according to Murphy. “We also have a full day on Thursday where the caretakers get to go on a trip through southern Iowa.” He says it gives the caretakers the same type of vacation that they people they help throughout the year are getting. The event was held in Ely, Minnesota until moving to Iowa two years ago. Murphy says it has become the highlight of the year for many of the participants .
“You hear that from a lot of these veterans, they look forward to this week-long vacation every single year,” Murphy says. “And some have been coming for 14-plus years, to these this. They really look forward to it, they build a lot of camaraderie with their fellow veterans and they get to tell their story in trusting and comforting atmosphere.” Murphy says anyone who would like to help veterans participate can do so by donating.
He says Veterans Casting Away Disabilities is a nonprofit organization and they are always looking for donations to help pay the cost. “This year we have 65 veterans here and that is the most we’ve had in all the years,” according to Murphy.
To learn how you can help, go to the program’s Facebook page. You can also call Kirt Sickles at 319-358-5963.
(Photos courtesy of the Iowa DNR)