by Catherine Parks, Divide Camp Volunteer
For combat veterans, there is a great divide between life pre-war and life post-war. Soldiers prepare, train and are equipped to go to a war zone, but, upon returning home, physically and psychologically injured veterans struggle to assimilate back into a normal life. Divide Camp, located in the scenic mountains of northeastern Oregon, honors the service of post 9-11 combat veterans through small-group outdoor adventures. The non-profit camp offers hunting, fishing and other sporting and recreational activities.
Divide Camp provides comfortable lodging, home-cooked meals and transportation at no charge to the veterans served. The camp features 40 acres of remote forestland, six cabins, a shop and an outdoor picnic shelter. In 2014, The NRA Foundation funded its first grant to Divide Camp—$15,000 for an Action Trackchair—to allow amputee veterans to traverse the mountain terrain. Another grant in 2015 funded pistol range construction, safety gear and targets. Initial range work for a competition 3-D archery course shootable from a Trackchair began with funding from an NRA Foundation grant in 2016.
Army veteran Jose Martinez stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Following numerous surgeries and months of therapy, Jose was fitted with prosthetics, which allowed him to walk. Still, extreme depression set in and two suicide attempts followed.
On his first day at Divide Camp, Jose used the new all-terrain wheelchair to hunt. “I missed the first couple of times, but my friends didn’t give up on me and Divide Camp didn’t give up on me, and I got one the next morning,” Jose said. “Elk hunting was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. How many amputees in California can say they shot an elk?”
The rest of his time at the camp was spent viewing wildlife, including a bald eagle, and enjoying a rare view (for him) of the Milky Way. “It’s gorgeous. Even if we hadn’t gone hunting and just saw wildlife I would have loved it.” Jose stayed in a new cabin built to accommodate veterans with disabilities. He appreciated the camp’s efforts to make him comfortable. “It doesn’t take much, really, but it let me know how much they cared,” he said.
Julie Wheeler, Divide Camp executive director, has served as a critical incident stress worker to help others prevent post-traumatic stress disorder. She is familiar with what happens when people are exposed to high stress and trauma. “I know it takes a long time to overcome,” Julie said. “I think they need help beyond what’s provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which is drugs and therapy. Just being in nature is an amazing healer.”
Julie has seen the benefits of Divide Camp, including utilizing veterans as volunteers, staff and board members. “They get a lot out of doing something for their fellow vets, especially as they miss a sense of purpose and camaraderie they had in the service,” she explained. “We do this because it is an honor to serve those who have served our country, and because there is great need.”
Divide Camp aims to help veterans regain a sense of wellbeing, to restore their confidence, and to bring them purpose and hope by promoting spiritual healing and wellness and creating community and camaraderie. With the support of NRA Foundation grant funding, Divide Camp will continue to accomplish these goals and impact the lives of veterans who risked all to keep this country safe.
To learn more about available grants through The NRA Foundation, click here!
The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. The NRA Foundation Tax ID number is: 52-1710886