Camp Hackett gives sporting opportunities to wounded veterans

The Bee
Cathy Peterson

Property near Phillips is the fall field headquarters for Wounded Warriors In Action, a non-profit organization 

Several years ago, John McDaniel, a retired U.S. Army Ranger and Special Operations veteran, founded Wounded Warriors in Action (WWIA), a non-profit organization dedicated to providing world-class outdoor sporting opportunities to combat-injured veterans. About the same time, he purchased and donated to the WWIA about 410 acres of land located near Phillips which he named Camp Hackett.

“I have hunted in the Northwoods my whole life, and I wanted to come back here and connect with the outdoors again,” he said. 

According to McDaniel, the property, some of which is situated in the town of Emery, is WWIA's fall field headquarters. The camp offers wounded veterans, all of whom have received Purple Heart medals for their combat injuries, a chance to bow hunt trophy white tail deer, bag their limit of ruffed grouse, and fish in nearby lakes for record-breaking musky. 

“The mission of WWIA includes aiding in the healing process of these American heroes by welcoming them home and helping repay the debt of gratitude for the great sacrifices they have made,” he said. “As the result of the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there are about 47,000 combat-wounded veterans, many with injuries that are not visible but no less real and traumatic.”

Goals of the organization include increasing self-reliance, instilling a sense of belonging, improving self-confidence, promoting spiritual healing and wellness, and enjoying the outdoors in a supportive environment shared by others with similar experiences. McDaniel noted that by their support of WWIA, sportsmen across America have been reaching out to help returning soldiers enjoy the communal aspect of hunting and fishing as they re-integrate back into society.

“When I first began this project, I started keeping a journal, and gradually some of the veterans who came to Camp Hackett shared their thoughts, too,” he said. “Many of their entries show just how much they value the opportunity to spend time here and how it is making a difference in their lives.”

Recently, Camp Hackett hosted two groups of veterans from various branches of military service; they stayed in the bunk house recently constructed on the property. A number of local AmVets Post 50 members, including Bob Bolz, Stan Smith and Hannah Gengenbach, assisted with meals and other camp activities while Steven Koch of Meister's Bar and Grill and other Phillips area business owners provided additional support.

“This is a wonderful program for these veterans who are real American heroes, and I am pleased to do what I can to help,” said Bolz. 

The main WWIA headquarters is in Florida, where McDaniel, a professional fishing guide, gives wounded veterans the chance to go saltwater fishing. According to McDaniel, since the organization was founded, more than 40 different events have been offered in various places around the nation, adding he does “a lot of traveling to organize and promote these activities.”

For more information about the Wounded Warriors in Action project, log onto their Web site, www.wwiaf.org

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