Dear Mr. R. Sutter, President, Send-A-Vet.org and Mr. M.D. Brasel, VP, Send-A-Vet.org
In appreciation for Send-A-Vet’s generosity and hospitality given to the men and woman of the United States Armed Forces who suffer from combat related injuries and ultimately for providing fiscal unique outdoor adventures for those who served in defense of our freedoms and way of life. I feel it my duty as a combat veteran and a Brother-in-Arms to share how Send-A-Vet has positively affected my difficult recovery efforts of PTSD.
In January 1990 I signed on the dotted line beginning a long and rather prosperous career in Intelligence for the U.S. Army. My career spanned over 5 deployments, 17 Permanent Change of Station (PCS), and 23 Temporary Duty Assignments. And in July 2011, I was involuntarily retired after 21 and ½ years of service with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer 3, CW3. My quality of life before and after retirement was deplorable; every aspect of my life had declined in some measure. Assuming the treatment options at the VA Hospitals are horse shit, I endured enough treatment to cover AT&T Stadium with a 2 foot layer of horse shit. Needless to say, my road to recovery has relapsed more times than I care to count. I also lost count of how many invitations Mr. Mark Daniel Brasel offered me. It took him 6 months of fishing and hunting invitations to convince me to accept a Bear hunting invitation in Idaho. Now I’ll be frank in saying, I thought it would be a waste of my time and effort if I went. I had no intentions of leaving the security of my home with a bunch of guys I’ve never met before. After attending Send-A-Vet.org’s banquet and consulting with my wife Shana, I finally decided to accept his invitation to a Idaho Spring Bear hunt in 2015.
My first spring Bear hunt with Send-A-Vet.org gave me a good look at what I actually got myself into. With no hunting experience, I took a leap of faith, relying solely on the hosts of Send-A-Vet.org to answer all my greenhorn questions and to steer me in the right direction. In addition to hunting, I was able to get to know everyone and share a few stories. I even tasted black bear for the first time. My worst experience was Rick taking me to Knife’s Edge for my first hunt ever. I thought I had done something wrong to Rick, because of how difficult the trek was to the blind. It was so steep you have to use a rope to ascend the hill. Then I saw the blind, situated on the side of and ½ the way up a steep mountain with a game trail just below it. This blind was completely exposed from the top, front, and behind and it was only 15 to 20 yards away from the bait barrel. At that moment, I knew Rick had it in for me. I spent every fearful moment in the blind trying to think what I could have done to cause Rick to put me here. It’s was good to know I did nothing wrong to Rick, it’s just a good blind for black bear. I felt more like prey at Knife’s Edge than a predator. Although I went home empty handed I was assured of another invitation to fill my bear tag.
Here begins my status as the “Last Minute Man” for Send-A-Vet.org because of my willingness to accept last minute invitations. With just a day or two for prep, I was offered a 5 day Outfitter hunt from Send-A-Vet.org. My second bear hunt with this outfitter lasted for 5 days. I learned a lot from this hunt, I learned a lot of what NOT to do in hunting black bear. The outfitter had 9 bear bait sights and used the most fowl smelling rotten meat as bear bait. Worse was the fact they kept the lot of rotting bait only 50 yards away from my hooch. One day hunting with the outfitter, I was dropped off at a nice blind just off the main road. Within 3 hours I heard what sounded like car doors shutting. To my amazement, a tree hugging, twig and berry eating hippie squatted just out of sight from the bait barrel. He was making so much noise, if there were game in my hunting area, they vanished. I couldn’t believe it, I watched as he draped a tarp over a single line and staked in the corners, had no weapons or food, and brought a dog. Well, my hunt for that day was over and I wasn’t too happy about that. So with full ghilly suit on and a stalkers swagger, I walked out and into his camp. He got really spooked and thought I was a bear. He burst into a full sprint for his car as I laughed my ass off. After calming him down, I informed him of the hunting blind and bait barrel just inside the tree line. What a dumb ass. Now, Mr. Denny with the outfitter treated me very well during my stay. The chow was awesome and I had a great time with those guys, even though I didn’t see a bear on this hunt. I was bummed to not even get a shot off, but I was very happy to get back to Rick’s cabin.
The last weekend of Idaho’s Spring Black Bear season was upon us and Rick invited me to stay at the cabin in hopes of filling my bear tag one last time. This time, I was fully prepared and had experienced the learning curve of hunting! My confidence level hadn’t been this high since my Active Duty days and I hadn’t even fired a shot yet. I felt very comfortable being around fellow Brothers-In-Arms, something I missed from Active Duty service (the military family). I found myself being social, getting involved, and helping whenever I could. I was accepted and I felt it! The atmosphere created by Send-A-Vet.org in support of veterans’ recovery efforts brings that veteran back to what is familiar to him/her, the military family. As I recall the benefits of these hunts, I’m reminded of feeling comfortable with my surroundings; sharing with other combat veterans; developing healthy long lasting relationships with fellow combat veterans; learning valuable life skills in hunting and trapping; and after finally shooting my bear Sue Ellen, I felt the sense of accomplishment, not often experienced by those with combat related injuries. That’s impressive for a Non-Profit organization to accomplish. I have such tremendous respect for Mr. Sutter and Mr. Brasel for creating such a positive outdoor experience for our Nations’ finest warriors.
One form of camaraderie experienced was the banter that occurs between hunters. Since I was the subject of one such banter, I must own up to my frailty. My entire life I’ve had a weak stomach and once my secret was out, I became the prime target for a continual prank. I was constantly on guard, watching for hunters trying to make me smell something revolting. While throwing up, I tried really hard to curse out the culprits with puke coming out of my nose. Apparently watching a grown man dry heaving and repeatedly puking to the scent of days old bear guts in a barrel is super funny.
Lastly, I hope to share one last positive outcome from my hunting adventures with Send-A-Vet.org so all who read this can be inspired to make a difference. One of the critical signs of Depression is an extensive rebuke for making future plans. In my own self-awareness, I noticed a profound increase in the amount of future plans I’ve made. Now that was definitely not normal for me. I was used to avoiding virtually all future plans and responsibilities. Why is this so important to me, you ask? Suicide is an inherent attribute of Depression and when one makes a concerted effort not to make future plans: It’s a tell-tale sign of suicidal intentions and shouldn’t be taken lightly. So Thank You Send-A-Vet.org for personally helping me to recognize this and improve my way of life. My hope is for this testimony to be useful for other veterans in an effort to exemplify how Send-A-Vet.org has positively impacted my recovery efforts with PTSD and Depression.
Adam N. Bousquet, CW3, RET, USA