By Justin Damasiewicz
Original Article posted here: http://www.graysharbortalk.com/2015/08/30/send-a-vet-foundation/
Thank you Grays Harbor Talk
Since 2013, Elma resident MarkDaniel Brasel has been working with the Send-A-Vet Foundation in an effort to send military veterans on all-expenses-paid hunting and fishing trips. The trips range from group bear hunts in Idaho to fishing expeditions in eastern Washington.
“Everything is paid for, including food,” says MarkDaniel. “We pick them up from where they are and take them to the event. Even if they just want to go but they don’t want to hunt. The hunting is up to them. If they just want to relax at the cabin, we let them do that, just to get away. I personally find out beforehand what their disabilities are. If they need a caregiver, we let their wives come to take care of them. The cabin is fully equipped and handicap accessible. If they need something, like a special tree stand, we’ll get it for them. We make it so we can accommodate every veteran, whatever they need. There are some trips that some veterans may not be able to go on, but then we’ll find them something else.”
MarkDaniel is a veteran of the war in Afghanistan. He grew up in Toledo and joined the service almost immediately after graduating from Toledo High School in 2000.
Over the next several years, MarkDaniel was deployed five times and spent a total of 36 months in Afghanistan. He was granted a full medical retirement in 2012 due to injuries he sustained in 2005, which included a traumatic brain injury caused by an improvised explosive device and leg injuries caused a mortar round. The injuries affected his vision and memory and caused nerve damage in his leg.
“When I came home, I was looking into places that I could get out and hunt and fish, but I couldn’t really find a group that took guys out fishing and hunting,” MarkDaniel said.
That’s when MarkDaniel was first invited to a Send-A-Vet fundraiser by a friend of his mother-in-law. The Send-A-Vet Foundation then sent him on a bear hunting trip and a deer hunting trip.
Shortly thereafter, Rick Sutter, a Vietnam veteran and one of Send-A-Vet’s board members, expressed to MarkDaniel that it was difficult to find combat injured veterans to send on outdoor adventures. The Department of Veterans Affairs cannot disclose information about veterans for confidentiality reasons. MarkDaniel agreed to help Rick by connecting him with veterans who would like to go.
“I know tons and tons of veterans that want to go,” MarkDaniel said. “So anytime an event came up, Rick would call me and ask if I knew any guys that would want to go. I was doing this so much for him that he just asked me to become a board member. Then I started helping get donations, getting fishing trips, getting hunting trips. I spent about three-fourths of this last summer taking guys on trips to Idaho and making sure that they had everything they needed.”
At this point, Send-A-Vet is still a small organization and has only been around for two years. It is run completely by volunteers, which means that 100 percent of all donations go straight to providing services for veterans.
“Our organization is about veterans helping veterans,” MarkDaniel said. “It’s all volunteer. Nobody gets a paycheck, so every single dime that we collect for donations goes back to getting the veterans what they want on a hunt. I get donations from places that do guided hunts. We’ll either send a veteran on that trip or we’ll auction it off at the fundraiser. Often we will just put the money back into the organization that donated the trip by buying a trip through them. We also take [monetary] donations and use them to purchase items for the silent auction.”
Send-A-Vet was founded specifically for veterans who were injured in combat and live in the Pacific Northwest.
“There’s so much more involved when veterans are combat injured,” said MarkDaniel’s wife, Arielle. “There are more aggressive issues, physically, emotionally and mentally. So they really want to reach out and help those guys. Washington has the biggest population of veterans nationwide. So there are a lot of people out there to help or just to give another aspect of life to get out there and enjoy.”
According to MarkDaniel, the response from the veterans who have gone on the trips has been overwhelmingly positive, which has resulted in a lot of new volunteers for the organization.
“I’ve gotten numerous emails [from veterans that have gone on the trips] saying what a great life experience it was,” MarkDaniel said. “A lot of guys didn’t think they would have these opportunities after they were injured. A lot of guys say it’s an adventure of a lifetime and a lot of them now volunteer for Send-A-Vet.”
Send-A-Vet events are paid for and include everything from room and board to transportation and any necessary special accommodations. The Send-A-Vet Foundation exists for the sole purpose of sending combat injured veterans in the Pacific Northwest on the outdoor adventure of a lifetime, and they take care of everything.
To make a donation, visit the Send-A-Vet website. Combat injured veterans who are interested in going on a trip can contact MarkDaniel Braser for an application.