WEBB CITY, Mo.–Perhaps the biggest crisis facing veterans is suicide. But, one non-profit based in Webb City is looking to save lives through service–and they’re doing so by heading to the outdoors.
After surviving a life-threatening illness, Scott Hettinger decided he needed to do more for our nation’s veterans. In October of 2017, Scott and a group of friends started Charlie 22 Outdoors, a non-profit that helps troubled veterans who may be contemplating suicide by taking them on hunting and fishing trips.
“When a guy comes to you on a Sunday that you met on a Friday, is crying his eyes out, gives you a hug and tells you, ‘I almost called you three weeks ago to cancel this trip. I was going to commit suicide,'” Hettinger explained. “‘I lost my best friend a month earlier; it was the one-year anniversary of his death. I woke up with no purpose, I’m breathing. I’m waking up and I’m breathing, that’s all I’m doing. I’m existing.’ And he said, ‘This hunt has changed my life.’ That’s why you do this.”
In just two years of existence, Charlie 22 Outdoors has already helped dozens of veterans who were thinking of suicide. One of those is Cody Greuling, who was having trouble fitting into civilian life after 10 years in the service and after losing his grandfather.
“I had trouble sitting still,” said Greuling. “Downtime to me was bad and I had to constantly be doing something–it didn’t matter what. I didn’t really go out with friends. Didn’t really go out to public places. Especially after my grandfather passed away, because my grandfather, he was in the military as well. Whenever I lost him, it was pretty much the icing on the cake. And then, God sent me Charlie 22 and it’s been 180 degrees.”
Its not all about hunting and fishing, Greuling says the bonds that are built through Charlie 22 Outdoors is what helps the most.
“To see people come out of a dark area and just turn their lifestyle completely around,” Grueling added. “Some people do, some people don’t. But to see the majority of the people come out of that trench, if you will, and actually feel like they’re part of something bigger, it makes all the difference. It makes all the difference.”
With more than a dozen hunts this year and many more already planned next year, Charlie 22 Outdoors helps not only Four States veterans, but some from as far away as Hawai’i. Hettinger says they’re only getting started.
“We’ve progressed further than we thought we would be at this point,” said Hettinger. “But that’s because God’s opening up doors. People want to be a part of this. Veterans are being helped. Their families are being helped. Lives are being saved. There’s nothing for us–we’re not trying to get any glory out of this. We’re just doing this because we’re called to serve. And people are being served.”
The name Charlie 22 Outdoors is quite a story in and of itself. Charlie 22 was the company Scott’s dad served in as a drill sergeant at Fort Leonard Wood. The number twenty-two also represents the number of veteran suicides a day in the United States.
Veterans Voices is proudly sponsored by McDowell Land and Cattle