I met with Scotty in January 2022. It was the morning after I was informed that a good friend of mine and retired 2 Star General was found in his home unresponsive. On my way to the city of Joplin, Missouri, to meet with Scotty, I was informed that my buddy had taken his own life…..pause. A 2 Star General Officer…..a Combat Veteran 2 Star General Officer….What???????? Yep. My friend and Brother in Arms, a 2 Star General Officer, had taken his own life. This was number two. My best friend, a Retired Lieutenant Colonel had taken his own life in 2012. So now I have two close friends, both Combat Veterans and both losing the struggle with the demons that haunt us Veterans. To add to the mix, my Son, currently a Major in the Army, lost his first wife to suicide. Two hours after we promoted my Son to Major, tragedy struck. Many thoughts run through the mind. One of the biggest is WHY? When speaking to Army Chaplains back in 2012, trying to wrap my head around the loss of one of my best friends, one Chaplain told me that people just loose hope. They don’t know Jesus as their Lord and Savior and they flat out loose hope. During my first volunteer opportunity with Charlie 22, I was honored to have had the opportunity to fish and talk with a young man who just lit up when we spoke of Jesus!!! Jesus is our HOPE as military Veterans. And even more if you witnessed the horrors of the battlefield. Charlie 22 has a mission. It is a mission to ensure that Veterans understand that we have HOPE! HOPE is a person. HOPE is Jesus!!!!! My prayer is that Scotty and all the Volunteers understand that they bring HOPE, they bring Jesus, to Veterans struggling to find that HOPE.
M. Costello COL(R)
When you join the military they whisk you away, erase everything and create you as something new. With this comes promises of what the rest of your life is going to be like. You’re talked to, mentored, and trained to believe your life makes a difference, and it does. Then it doesn’t. Life after the military is going to be far better than anything you could dream. College, job skills, leadership, you’ve got it all. You’re going to have it all. Then it comes time to come home, and for far too many like me nothing really makes sense. We hear the words “22 a day” like it’s some kind of mantle that is waiting for someone to pick up. No one dares to address the truth that it’s more like 50 a day. We just can’t track them all. We sell t-shirts, do push-ups, then make Facebook posts that make us look aware. We fool ourselves that we are making a difference. In the end its all-verbal reassurances to ourselves that we didn’t look the other way. Their war didn’t stop, but I wear this shirt, so I must care. Then there are the rare people like the crew at Charlie 22 Outdoors. They don’t ask for anything much less recognition. They just want to lower that number. Even if they take it down just one number. Whatever it is and show God’s love, and truly make a difference.
When I showed up, they welcomed me. They didn’t know until three days later that I was nervous and tried to find every reason to cancel under the sun. If it wasn’t for my wife urging me, I would have disappeared. They laughed and joked at my single shot 20 gauge. They told me I could borrow a gun. That I would need more shots. As the weekend went on they became more understanding, they realized I was holding onto that gun because it reminded me of my youth. It reminded me of a time when things made sense. They began to cheer that gun. The birds dropped. I understood them, and they understood me a little more. Then something changed. I realized that I had inadvertently put my guard down. I was truly around people that loved me. Not in a superficial way. Not looking for approval, but pure and real way. I still talk to them today. The text chain we started is still active. I still feel like I have brothers. It doesn’t matter if it’s what someone is cooking, a hunting trip, or someone’s new grandchild, you’re going to get a picture or a text. It’s an avenue. It’s someone who is there. Someone who is always looking to pray for you, whether you feel like you deserve it or not. Scotty said the last day, he’s not trying to change the world. I would argue that, because the only way that number goes down is one at a time. Take 22 to 21, then 21 to 20, the 20 to 19. That’s how you change the world. One life at a time.
J. R. Jackson
Nothing is an accident! Must have been meant to be. It was an amazing weekend. I quite literally did not know how much I needed it or how much it would mean to me.
I have never opened a Bible before really in my life. But when I did last night, it opened directly to Psalm 27. And I can tell you that in all my years on this planet, I haven’t been religious. I know that I was supposed to be there this weekend for something greater. I was supposed to be given that Bible and meet the people I met.
Just in the hours since I left, I have begun to make amends with people I have not talked to in some time. Including my own family.
While driving home, I felt I was floating on a cloud. I know for a fact I need to become the best person I can. And that starts with my family and mending any relationships I have severed. There is no room for anything in my heart but love. I quite literally feel like I was born today and I have a new perspective on life. Just 2 days ago, I’d think I was crazy myself telling myself what I’m saying now. But I literally was filled up with joy, kindness, and gratefulness.
This has been an unbelievable trip! I wouldn’t change a thing. Russ is such a kind hearted person and Kevin went above and beyond with being a guide. Both were perfect examples on what Charlie 22 stands for. I started reading the Bible about two months ago. Keep up this amazing ministry as you are doing such great and wonderful things.
Thank you for the weekend. Everything was amazing. I’m going to share your message with my family.
We often hear, “Thank you for your service.” I want to say thank you to you guys for being the kind of people we want to serve.
What can I say about this weekend!?! MARSH MADNESS!!! First of all I’d like to thank the Lord above for such an incredible time. The whole time you could tell that the event was blessed by God. It was great from the start and at each turn got better. He kept everyone safe throughout this adventure. He allowed us to harvest many pheasant, chuckers, and ducks. God is Good!