Veterans event brings camaraderie and conversations

Tike Kilburn of Washington fires at the final station of the skeet range at Cool Springs in Velpen.Cool Springs is owned by OFS and was made available for the No Person Left Behind Outdoors event held last Saturday.

The skeet shooting is a backdrop for the veterans talking and giving each other a hard time as they move from station to station.

“When you’re in the military, there’s that jocularity,” organizer Steve Lindauer said, referring to the conversations around the event. “That’s what I love to see. You’re talking to men and women who’ve been through the same thing, and they know the acronyms.”

Sharing a military background means sharing a common language and an experience—the very things that sometimes isolate them from civilians. The impact of losing that part of your identity when you leave the service can be traumatic; civilians don’t know the acronyms and can’t relate to the reality of military service.

Brian Perdue prepared to take his turn firing.

However, the other commonality for this group of veterans is that they have all seen combat and all have some level of disability. To qualify for the event, they have to be designated between 30 percent and 100 percent disabled by Veterans Affairs.

For Lindauer and fellow organizers, this is the reason to bring the event together, as these men and women are some of the most traumatized and isolated.

“One of these guys has done three tours in Iraq and one tour in Afghanistan,” Lindaurer, a Marine Corps veteran, said about the group walking on the path at Cool Springs near Velpen.

Bringing them together with fellow veterans gives them an outlet to talk about their experiences.

“I’ve got a brother-in-law that served in Vietnam, carries shrapnel around in his back to this day. He doesn’t want to talk about it; no one wants to ask him about it,” Lindauer said. “It’s guys like that you got to pull out to get stuff off their chest, get out of their heads. So that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Veterans Brian Messmer of St. Anthony, Craig Atkins of Holland and Greg Merder of Jasper spent time talking at the shelterhouse at Cool Springs after completing the skeet course.

That’s why he decided to work with a national nonprofit, No Person Left Behind Outdoors (NPLB Outdoors), to bring outdoor events to area veterans. This is the third event held through support from local businesses and individuals.

Lindauer likes the organization because it spends most of its money on veteran-based events. “Everyone has heard of Wounded Warriors,” he emphasized.

NPLB Outdoors began in 2004 when two hunting guides offered guided hunts for disabled veterans. The program grew from there. In 2018, Adam Kisielewski, a disabled veteran, was named the organization’s CEO. Mr. Kisielewski took part in climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with several other disabled veterans through the nonprofit he now works for.

Lindauer and his fellow organizers want to grow the group and make an even larger impact. If you want to support these events or become involved, contact him at 812-639-1005.

Here are some photos from this year’s event at Cool Springs.

A USMC veteran, Tina Moriarty, prepared to shoot as a Cool Springs employee hit the button to launch a clay pigeon.
Along with skeet shooting, organizers provided a meal donated by a local family at a shelterhouse overlooking the property lake. USMC veteran Dave Englert prepared the meal Saturday morning and served it up when the shooters arrived.
From left: Gold Star father Jake Lueken spoke with USMC veteran Pat Moriarty while sitting around the fire pit during lunch. Mr. Lueken’s son, USMC Corporal Eric Lueken of Dubois, was killed on April 22, 2006, while conducting combat operations against enemy forces in Al Anbar province, Iraq.
Steve Lindauer presented OFS CEO Hank Menke with a flag from the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor and a certificate of authenticity as a gift for generously supporting the group’s efforts in bringing these events to local veterans. The memorial honors the 1,177 crewmen who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. The hull is a tomb for more than 900 sailors who remain within.