BONIFAY — The smell of dinner wafting from the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church was a welcome sensation to the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity finishing up the third leg of the 128.3 mile Hard Walk for wounded warriors March 6.
BONIFAY — The smell of dinner wafting from the fellowship hall at First Baptist Church was a welcome sensation to the Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) fraternity finishing up the third leg of the 128.3-mile Hard Walk for wounded warriors March 6.
Brothers from the Troy University fraternity walked again for the third year to benefit Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures, a Bonifay-based non-profit organization offering outdoor excursions to wounded warriors, veterans and first responders.
ATO brothers walked through Bonifay and spent the night at the church before departing early Monday morning for another day of the walk.
“I’m really close to my best friend’s parents; they’re both in the military. My little brother just joined the Army this year, so we do it for them and those who have lost loved ones and those lost in action or those who have had to deal with losing someone in action,” said ATO brother Hunter Buce.
The ATO Hard Walk is becoming a well-established annual philanthropy project for the fraternity. This year, Sullivan said the logistics were more coordinated for the walkers with overnight stops in Enterprise and Hartford along the route through Alabama and in Bonifay, Vernon, Ebro and finally in Panama City Beach in Florida.
The frat brothers participated in the walk to raise funds and awareness for Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures. The non-profit provided outdoor experiences for 47 soldiers last year who got involved in hunting, fishing, golf, 5k runs and other retreats. Turkey season is next on the agenda in coming weeks, soon to be followed by saltwater fishing in the spring.
Jeep Sullivan said his organization ministers to and serves many with physical injuries and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
“We don’t just focus on the new guys who have been to Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Sullivan. “We do things for all combat soldiers, whether it’s World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Africa, Honduras, it doesn’t matter.”
Sullivan and his wife, Meg Sullivan, provide marriage counseling to soldiers. Veterans who come in contact through the organization help one another navigate issues around receiving veteran’s benefits. The organization also helps soldiers through survivor’s guilt and finding purpose again following war injuries.
It’s not all about the guys. Sullivan said one female survivor wounded in Afghanistan took part in the Wiregrass Bass Trail last year and encourages more women survivors to reach out to the organization.
“The biggest thing is them being able to get with other combat soldiers,” said Sullivan.
A theme of the ministry is to become “whole in the outdoors” to restore soldiers physically, emotionally and spiritually after wartime service. Sometimes, it’s the fellowship around these experiences that facilitate the most healing.
“It helps them to be with others who know what they’re going through,” said Sullivan.