When veterans leave the military for civilian life, it’s not always an easy transition. In fact, many struggle to fit in and relate to their families and friends back home.
“You speak a different language. You feel like a puzzle piece that doesn’t quite fit,” said Khris Beyer, an Army veteran. “You have such different experiences.”
But a Tri-Cities nonprofit is working to help smooth the way for veterans and their loved ones by opening a ranch retreat in Prosser full of outdoor activities, open spaces and opportunities to reconnect with one another, rebuild bonds and make memories.
The nonprofit, called Friends of Disabled Veterans, celebrated the first phase of the ranch with a ribbon cutting and open house on May 1. So far, an archery range and restrooms are completed at the site, and a lodge, playground and other features are envisioned in the future.
“We want to bring families together. We want them to come out and experience things together without the stress of battle,” said Beyer, senior operations director for the nonprofit.
“That’s a way you can rebuild bonds — by doing physical things together.”
Friends of Disabled Veterans started in 2016 and is run entirely by volunteers, many of whom are veterans. The group serves disabled and non-disabled veterans alike.
The ranch is on 140 acres off North Case Road. The first phase of the project included building a sewer system and restrooms at the site, plus completing the archery range.
A golf tournament fundraiser last year, presented by Toyota of Tri-Cities with Retter & Company | Sotheby’s International Realty, brought in tens of thousands of dollars for the sewer and restrooms, with in-kind donations from local contractors, suppliers and volunteers bringing the project home. And a $50,000 grant from Gesa Credit Union paired with in-kind donations covered the ADA-accessible archery range and equipment for adults and kids.
The range can accommodate 10 archers at once.
Several attendees at the May 1 event, including U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, had fun trying out the bows and arrows. In remarks to the crowd beforehand he picked up a bow, Newhouse said the ranch will offer a valuable service for veterans in the region.
“In Central Washington, we have about 40,000 veterans. They were there for us when we needed them, and we’ve got to be there for them now,” he said, noting that there are between 22 and 44 deaths by suicide in the veteran community each day.
“If a facility like this can offer any kind of comfort, support or distraction for people who are going through some pretty tough times...that’s priceless. It really is,” he said.
Trey Judy, 25, of Pasco, an Army veteran, also was on hand at the event.
He’s been volunteering at the ranch because he finds its mission meaningful.
“As a veteran, I know that there are a lot of things — positive and negative — that veterans have to live with. Giving veterans and their families and friends things to do outdoors to help improve mental health or just to take the family out is going to be a huge help,” he said.
And, he added, “if (the place) looks impressive now, it’s only going to get better.”
The ribbon cutting and open house marked a soft opening of the ranch, with the official opening expected in June. Beyer said she’s hopeful the lodge could be built in the next year.
Along with Gesa, several companies donated materials, labor and/or offered discounts for the sewer, restrooms and archery range, including: American Rock Products, Aqtera Engineering, Brashear Electric, Brown Strauss Steel, Columbia River Steel and Construction, Desert Food Mart, H.D. Fowler, Indian Eyes, Meier Architecture, Mountain States Construction, Operation Hat Trick, Permit Surveying, PMI, Rock Placing Company, Riggle Plumbing, The Truss Company, Ray Poland & Sons, Rodan and Sons, and Routh Engineering.
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