An evening honoring veterans of all U.S. armed services, with a silent art auction to support Valor Retreat (Veterans Are Loved Owed Respected), was held on Jan. 22 at Ohman Family Living at Briar in the nearly completed post-hospital recovery wing. More than thirty pieces of patriotic artwork went up for auction with twenty-four of them coming from Cardinal School students. The remaining were donated by professionals upon learning of the event. Guests were welcomed by Andy Ohman, co-president of Ohman Family Living who gave an overview of Ohman Family Living and introduced the evening’s agenda. Ohman Family Living is proud to care for veteran patients, and maintains a V.A. contract that certifies their commitment to these important individuals and their families.
Valor Retreat at High Rock on 197 acres in beautiful Hocking Hills is a non-profit organization with the goal of providing a free recreational facility for combat veterans, their families and Gold Star families to provide a tranquil environment to recover from the ravages of conflict, to heal and reconnect with nature, their families, and one another.
Christian and Simina Ohman spoke on the achievements of the Cardinal students from grades Kindergarten through 12. With the guidance of their teachers, students shared their armed forces themed artwork to be auctioned off to support Valor Retreat. The idea for the art auction to benefit Valor Retreat came from V.P. of Growth Strategies Joshua Wallace as a way to honor our veterans while giving the community a way to give back. The Wallace family is all too familiar with the struggles vets go through, losing an uncle. Joshua stated “my uncle, whom I admired as a war hero and served in Vietnam, took his life as a result of PTSD.” This had a devastating effect on the family, spawning a call to action to help other vets in similar situations.
Many thanks were given to the Cardinal School District art teachers; Mary Eigner (elementary school), Hannah Dibble (middle school), and Kim Richards (high school). Special acknowledgement was also given to Superintendent Bill Kermavner and Principle Dr. Markiel Perkins for their enthusiastic support of the event. Dr. Perkins, a veteran himself, served in the Coast Guard for eleven years.
Congratulations to Cardinal Local School District senior Jonathon San Miguel-zins who took first place, Milanie Macarya, 10th grade, who took second and Sara Kangas, 11thgrade, taking third in the art contest. Each student received cash reward from the leadership at Briar to go toward furthering their education. Artwork was judged on creativity, quality, clarity, and patriotic theme with all branches of the service to be included.
As the evening progressed, Barbara Titus, V.P. of Valor Retreat, gave an overview of the organization and introduced the guest speaker, Eric Burkett, retired Marine Major who was injured in combat. In his sixth deployment, he sustained injuries during a flying mission in Africa that resulted in both of his legs amputated. Burkett says that he signed up for the armed forces, but his family did not. Life changed for him and his family. At first, he was angry, frustrated, and scared and did not know how to deal with his emotions.
Burkett spent four years at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where the Wounded Warrior Team asked him to adopt a sport. He chose archery and told the audience that it has been therapeutic and helped “heal the soul” while answering the question, “What do I do now?” Participating gave him a chance to leave the hospital and interact with civilians in a common sport. It expanded his circle of friends and he has gotten others interested in it. His newfound passion for outdoor Archery landed him on the Paralympic team, where he won gold medals and became an archery judge.
Burkett feels that he and his family have been blessed through the organizations helping veterans. The Burkett family lives in a smart home specially built for the most severely wounded heroes. He experienced difficult obstacles, like steps, stairs and doorways, in the homes he and his family lived in before moving to this smart home built by the Gary Sinise foundation. The Valor Retreat helps combat veterans with visible or invisible scars transition from military to civilian life with the chance to connect with their family, using nature as therapy. Burkett is grateful that it provides hope and an end to the demons veterans wrestle with. Major Burkett described the circumstances of his injury, discussed the difficulties while healing, and then later he and his family answered questions. After almost a half hour of sharing difficult memories, a member of the audience asked a question pertaining to why he served and finished by thanking him for that service. His reply, “You’re worth it.” This closing comment must have made quite an impact on the audience because, by the end of the evening, every art piece was sold. The program concluded with questions from the audience and a chance for final bids. The bidding closed, bid sheets were collected, and winners announced. The amount raised was $4,040.
The goal of Valor Retreat is to raise $2 Million for the construction of four handicap-accessible cabins and a lodge by 2021 and be fully operational by 2022. To learn more about the Valor Retreat, to make a donation or to sign up as a volunteer, please go to www.valorretreat.org. Donations to Valor Retreat at High Rock, Inc. are deductible. Donors should consult their tax advisor for questions regarding deductibility.