KALISPELL — Montana has one of the highest populations of veterans in the United States and there are some unique opportunities for veterans as well.
“There's two families, there's your blood family, and then there's kind of your military family. And I feel like even though we didn't serve together, we're in that military family where if I need anything at all, they're there, no matter how far away they are there. They'll come, they'll get me out of a bad spot,” said Seth Schueller who is taking part in Homeward for Heroes.
Homeward for Heroes is a non-profit organization that connects veterans, military and first responders through outdoor adventures to help each other with the hardships and mental struggles of being a hero.
“It's amazing because every single person that goes through our program becomes family. And it's nice to see it grow. It's nice to see that other people's lives are changed because of what they went through with us. You know, it's not just a program, it's an extended family,” said Homeward for Heroes founder Laura Reese.
The group gets together to go on off-road camping treks to remote locations. Once at the location, they sit around a campfire where they share and work through their PTSD and other issues.
“If I sit there and wait my thoughts get really loud as they would do if I'm home alone by myself. So I feel like I put on my same bedside manner, Superman attitude, and get the first story out and get more relaxed around everybody. And then everybody can swim through,” said Schueller.
Homeward for Heroes began in Kalispell, officially, in 2018 and the program now extends into seven states and continues to grow.
“It's very emotional and it's very awesome to see all these people now that we've helped and how much they've changed. I mean, just the night and day difference in a even a five day trek that will see in an individual it's exciting to see the growth, you know, that they've had and I mean, it's just a huge blessing,” said Dan Reese, Homeward for Heroes Founder.
Through fundraising and grants, all expenses for the treks are paid for, including gas and food, for the military, first responders and a plus one, making sure there is no excuse for people needing help to not attend.
“The last trek I was in Moab a couple years back, I was pretty low in life. Laura kept reaching out, making sure I was okay, checking in on me. And then I went to the trek. Just through our talks and conversations, Laura through text messaging, actually kind of saved my life in a way," Schueller said. "I was in a really low spot, staying at home, being in confinement and she kept tabs on me as any good battle buddy would do and talk me out of some stuff. And I'm kind of still here because these guys, so it's great. I'm happy to still be here."
Additional information about Homeward for Heroes can be found at https://www.homewardforheroes.org/.