From Donna Miles, AFPS at War on Terrorism News:
SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill., Jan. 3, 2013 – With a simple idea and their fallen Marine son’s Servicemembers Group Life Insurance check, a retired soldier and his wife are honoring his memory through a program that’s bringing new hope and self-confidence to wounded warriors.
William “Mike” White, an equipment operator at the Military Surface Deployment and Distribution Command here, remembers as if it were yesterday the dreaded knock on the door as he and his wife, Galia, learned that their son, Marine Pfc. Christopher Neal White, had been killed. The young White, an avid outdoorsman who grew up in rural Kentucky, died in Iraq’s Anbar province two days after Father’s Day, 2006.
Heartbroken and guilt-ridden that he had convinced his wife to allow their son to join the military, White struggled to find meaning in their personal tragedy. “I had to take a negative and make it a positive. It had to be done,” he said.
Alone on a hunting trip — an endeavor he and his son had often shared — White came up with the inspiration for Camp Hope.
“I wanted to start a place for our wounded guys, to teach them that even if they have one arm or one leg or no arms or no legs or they’re blind, that they could still get out and enjoy the outdoors,” he said. “Little did I know it was going to lead to where we are today.”
The Whites used Christopher’s SGLI payment to buy Chris Neal Farm, a 170-acre retreat in southeast Missouri, and home of Camp Hope.
Five years later, Camp Hope is exceeding everything the senior White could have imagined. Hundreds of combat-wounded warriors from across the United States have flocked there to participate in everything Christopher White loved: skeet shooting, hunting, fishing, hiking, exploring the great outdoors and relaxing around an ever-burning fire pit.
The idea, White explained, is to allow wounded warriors to experience the healing powers of nature as they focus on what they can do, instead of what they cannot.
Operated through private and corporate donations and a legion of volunteers, Camp Hope provides a supportive, loving environment and a renewed sense of community to wounded warriors, White explained.
“We are really not doing anything special other than offering them a place and an opportunity to be able to get back and talk with other folks whose boots have been in the same dirt,” he said.