Michigan-based nonprofit Operation Injured Soldiers is opening Brave Hearts Estate in Pellston, a Northern Michigan vacation spot for injured veterans and families. Emily Bingham shares more on the project, originally published in the January 2016 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine.
A year ago this month, a Northern neighbor donated his 238-acre Pellston property—complete with an 8,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom home—to the Michigan-based nonprofit Operation Injured Soldiers. The nonprofit is in the process of turning the estate into a retreat for injured vets and their families; last summer, Brave Hearts Estate opened its doors to its first military families, and this year the organization plans to expand, hosting 20 to 30 people every weekend.
We spoke with Brave Hearts’ temporary caretaker, Operation Injured Soldier volunteer Larry Thueme, about the project.
What is the goal for Operation Injured Soldiers?
Our mission is to give injured veterans some of their life back. We do this by taking injured veterans out hunting and fishing and to sporting events. We call this recreational therapy. Any veteran who is 30 percent disabled or greater, or is a combat veteran, is eligible to join our organization. It does not cost them a thing, and it’s any veteran from any era.
Why is there a need for this type of therapy?
These veterans are adrenaline junkies; any time you can do something that gives them an adrenaline high—whether that’s jumping out of an airplane or going fishing and landing a big fish or going hunting and shooting a big deer—it helps with the PTSD. In general just getting them together and getting them outdoors is very good therapy for them. They’re used to working on teams, and when they got separated from the service because of their injuries, they’re out by their lonesome, especially if they’re sitting in a house thinking about their injuries or their next doctor’s appointment. It’s good to get them out with other vets.
What exactly is Brave Hearts Estate, and how does it fit into that mission?
It’s principally going to be a vacation spot where veterans can come and relax, enjoy the beauty of the area and do tours: Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City, Petoskey, the Tunnel of Trees. We’ve got a bonfire area, we’re going to set up an archery course. We’ve got a skeet-shooting machine; we’re going to do some hunting on the property, but that will be limited. We’re also going to set up two American Disabilities Act–compliant cabins and two or three RV pads.
What are your organization’s needs when it comes to moving forward with Brave Hearts Estate?
There’s a lot of different things we’d like to do with it, depending on the funding. Obviously we need money to continue to operate it. We also have a number of capital improvements we want to do, and a whole list of things we’re looking to obtain—for example, a good-sized lawn tractor. We’ve got about 12 acres of lawn to mow.
For more on Operation Injured Soldier and Brave Hearts Estate,
including volunteer and donation information, visit
injuredsoldiers.org or the Brave Hearts Estate Facebook page.
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