As fall progresses and the holidays come closer, a few things happen concurrently: deer and duck season arrive and the calendar turns into the busiest shopping time of the year.
These things might not seem connected at first glance, but they are.
While you’re trying to strike a balance between time spent in the tree stand or duck blind and time gathering gifts for friends and family, things can get frustrating. Shopping for the holidays can seem more about taking than giving, whether you’re an outdoorsman or not. Here’s our suggestion: Find ways to give back during the holiday season. Even better, find ways to give back that are tied to the outdoors. And if you want to support a charitable organization that gives back through hunting and fishing, we have the perfect solution: Special Operations Wounded Warriors, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.
WHAT IS SPECIAL OPERATIONS WOUNDED WARRIORS?
When I was first introduced to Special Operations Wounded Warriors (SOWW) it was still a relatively new organization. It was the late Master Chief Ron Bellan who told me about this group. He scrolled through pictures of hog hunts and talked about the ways SOWW helped injured Special Forces guys, both active duty and veterans. (You might want to call them “retired,” but I’m here to tell you that a Teams guy never really retires).
Ron and I hunted together outside SOWW (because clearly, I’m not a Special Forces guy) for everything from coyotes to mountain lions to hogs. He worked hard with SOWW, and his passing left a big hole not only on the SOWW board but in the lives of countless people in the firearms and hunting world. So, while this isn’t a memorial article, I’m taking the opportunity to remind people about the larger-than-life man who saw it as his personal mission to further SOWW’s mission and to help people in general. And if it wasn’t for Ron, I wouldn’t be writing this article.
SOWW is a 501(c)(3) that was founded in 2012 by five men interested in providing a healing outdoor experience and support for U.S. Military Special Operations Forces members who were wounded in battle or in training accidents.
It started small, as all things do, with “Takin’ Bacon” hog hunts as the original focus for retreats. Eventually this evolved into something larger. Retreats now include activities like Maine black bear hunts, South Carolina pheasant shoots, Louisiana duck hunts and offshore fishing in South Carolina, Florida and North Carolina. The faces of board members have changed and expanded as the organization has grown. Today’s SOWW board includes gun industry people like Roy Hill and Pete Brownell. Past and present sponsors have included Brownells, Glock, Magpul, Altama and Grizzly.
WHAT DOES SOWW DO?
While being outdoors and going hunting started SOWW, today the organization hosts retreats for everything from hunting to fishing to golfing. Events take place all over the country. Members of SOWW are on hand at retreats and are quick to point out that this community of support doesn’t begin and end at those events, but it is one that lasts forever. The idea behind the retreats isn’t to host a one-time event where the participants are quickly forgotten; instead, it’s to create a nationwide network of support and brotherhood for these wounded warriors.
Testimonials are available from past participants. Their stories are telling, though their names have been redacted here to maintain anonymity.
“Before being nominated for the SOWW Maine hunt, I had been in a state of depression with marital issues, physical injuries and the inability to turn off my mind and get a good night’s sleep. The hunting trip was one of the most relaxing experiences I’ve ever had. I felt like for the first time in probably eight years, I slept. All SOWW personnel were very receptive to listening to my personal demons and offering extended help in the future. The family that owns the lodge makes you feel at home in every way. The hunt itself was an incredible experience that I will never forget. After returning home I was afraid that my old routine would return and my depression along with it. I was pleasantly surprised when I awoke that first Monday with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. The services provided in this experience go far beyond the hunt. I am forever grateful for this experience.”
Here’s another one from a Takin’ Bacon hunt:
“My family and I would like to thank you for the weekend you provided us. I assume you know it was a nice gesture, however, it was more than you could possibly imagine. It has been four weeks now since my wife was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer at the very early age of 30. Now that the initial shock is over, we are concentrating on crushing this as a family and coming out stronger on the other end. This is the second time you (SOWW) [have] shown support for my family. Two years ago, I was invited to Takin’ Bacon, however, it was days before a deployment and I wanted to spend [that time] with my family. Not only did you invite them down, but you also provided lodging and a vehicle. Thank you so much for your support to the community and all that you and SOWW are doing for warriors all around.”
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
There are several ways you can help SOWW, and since we’re getting deep into the holiday season, this is really the perfect time to pitch in. You can make a monetary donation to SOWW to help support their retreats and outreach events. That can be taken a step farther by businesses of any size who wish to become sponsors. Multiple sponsorship levels are available, such as silver, gold, platinum, tip of the spear, and tier one. Opportunities abound for both individuals and businesses.
You can also visit the SOWW website and nominate a wounded Special Forces member for a retreat. Do you think that nominating someone doesn’t count as supporting SOWW? Keep in mind that SOWW is all about helping Special Forces members who have been wounded, but that doesn’t mean they have an exhaustive list of people who need them most. Nominating someone could get a person who truly needs SOWW at a retreat.
Other ways to help exist as well, such as charity auctions. The last one took place in May 2023 and was hosted by retired Army Sergeant Major Kyle Lamb.
Money raised at charity auctions goes to things like service dog programs, PTSD retreats, family retreats, and other potentially life- changing events. SOWW charity auctions aren’t only about attending or bidding on items, either. You can donate an item to the auction as well to contribute to raising funds in another way.
Regarding the service dog program, SOWW is partnered with Baden K-9 to assist in the process of providing trained service dogs to deserving recipients. A donation to Baden K-9 helps, too. If you know a service member in need of a trained dog, there’s an application for Baden K-9 on the SOWW website.
Want to help with donations, a sponsorship, or a donation to the auction? Or maybe you want to nominate the wounded Special Forces member in your life? Visit SOWWcharity.com