Camp Patriot Gives Wounded Veterans The Extreme Outdoors

SSG Bradley Gruetzner, who lost an arm, on a successful bear hunt on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.
SSG Bradley Gruetzner, who lost an arm, on a successful bear hunt on Vancouver Island in British Columbia.

This article appeared in the August 2013 issue of Western Shooting Journal.

by Rachel Alexander

Micah Clark is the founder and executive director of Camp Patriot.  Based out of Libby, Montana, the nonprofit organization takes disabled veterans all over the country on challenging outdoor trips, helping them to accomplish things many able-bodied people can’t do, such as climbing Mount Rainer in Washington and hunting big game.

Micah started the organization six years ago after returning from military service in Afghanistan. Although unscathed himself, he saw many of his fellow soldiers injured or killed. Currently, 22 veterans commit suicide every day. Micah saw a need to create an organization to help these injured warriors recover through recreational therapy. Unlike some organizations that only assist veterans from recent wars, Camp Patriot helps veterans of all wars. Any disabled veteran, including injured soldiers who have not yet left the armed forces, can apply with Camp Patriot to participate in one of these outdoor activities. Camp Patriot covers the costs, including any hunting or fishing licenses.

Successful hike up Mt. Rainer.
Successful hike up Mt. Rainer.

Not just an administrator, Micah actively participates with the veterans on the outdoor activities. They’ve gone hunting for doves, geese, bears, moose, boar, deer and elk. Other activities include archery, 400-mile motorcycle rides, fishing, ATV adventures, hiking the Grand Canyon, skiing, and white water rafting to name a few. There is an Annual Camp Patriot Fun Run that takes place every July 4th in Pasco, Wash. Next year it will be expanding to Seattle. In June, two of the veterans participated in the 150th anniversary ride of the Pony Express, which takes place in Utah and Nevada.

Airforce EOD Specialist Matthew Slaydon lost his left arm and was made blind by a bomb blast in Iraq. But with the help of Camp Patriot and Carl Taylor, Matthew is probably the first blind man to ever successfully hunt a free run elk.

Elliot Miller, former Navy SEAL, shot this elk.
Elliot Miller, former Navy SEAL, shot this elk.

CAMP PATRIOT HAS TAKEN disabled veterans – including one who lost a leg and one who is blind – hiking all the way up Mt. Rainier several times. The hike is done in two days usually; they hike to 10,000 feet, campout, do training evolution, then ascend at night. It is easier hiking at night because the snow freezes, allowing you to walk on it without sinking, and there are ice bridges to walk over. Once above 10,000 feet, they rope up and put on helmets.

Micah’s love of the outdoors and guns stems back to his childhood, when he was given his first BB gun at age 10 or 11. It was such a prized possession he slept with it for the first couple of months after he got it. He eventually moved on to .22s and shotguns.

Camp Patriot is the charity of choice for the Seattle Seahawks and several other organizations, and is rated five stars by the organization Great Nonprofits. The Seahawks team up with Camp Patriot for fundraisers.

Micah’s next goal for the organization is to buy a ranch in Montana where disabled veterans can get away and spend a week or two enjoying the outdoors. At that point, volunteers will be welcome to come stay at the camp and assist with chores, food and helping the guests. There are 2.3 million disabled veterans in the U.S. Micah would like to expand Camp Patriot to help hundreds, maybe even 1,000 of these valiant patriots who sacrificed for our freedom.

Editor’s note: Be sure to watch the video on the homepage of camppatriot.org, it is very inspiring and features some of the disabled veterans who have participated in the challenging outdoor events.

White water rafting.
White water rafting.

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