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WarHawgs hunt provides social connections for veterans

Dothan Eagle - 9/9/2017

For James David, going on a WarHawgs hunt gave him a chance to unwind and enjoy the company of folks who've shared life experiences similar to his own. That camaraderie and relaxation is tough to find for many veterans, but it's absolutely vital to their wellbeing.

David retired from the Navy in 2005 after a 21-year career serving his country. Although he's been out of the military for more than a decade, David, a Jacksonville, Florida, resident who now works for the Department of Homeland Security, empathizes with the struggles people who have been more recently discharged from the military.

"There's no set routine and people are different in the civilian world," he said.

David went on a WarHawgs hunt over Labor Day weekend. WarHawgs is a non-profit that provides outdoor activities ? primarily hunting, but also including paintball and skeet shooting ? free of charge to veterans, law enforcement officers and first-responders. Toby Cochran, a Navy veteran, along with a group of veterans, founded the organization to provide these experiences.

Cochran said many veterans who otherwise would not get the chance to hunt because of disabilities get the opportunity through WarHawgs' work. Cochran said research has shown that outdoor experiences help veterans cope with PTSD symptoms and benefits their mental and physical health.

Cochran said the social connections veterans can make through the hunts helps veterans establish the networks they need to deal with trying personal and career hardship.

"The camaraderie and ability to have a casual conversation with someone who has lived through some of the same things you have is really great," David said.

The hunts have proven popular with veterans. There's currently a waiting list of 103 people waiting to participate.

Cochran said WarHawgs runs entirely on donations and fundraisers. Hunts cost about $350 to conduct. The hunts are usually held on land leased by the organization or on land volunteered by local residents seeking to rid themselves of wild hogs.

To donate to the organization, contact 855-927-4294.


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