"After my transition out of the Army this program filled a void. That void was filled with camaraderie, being out in nature, spending time with people that I like and respect. I guess I’m a different person after this program, I do know what my purpose is in life and the things that I am ok with giving up to go after and chase that."
Larry, U.S. Army
Hunt for Purpose Participant
If you know, you know.
It's that brief period between mission prep and departure of friendly lines when the mission commander has deemed the force "ready." All the planning, preparation, rehearsals, and inspections are in the rearview, and the only thing left to do is wait. One guy checks and rechecks his gear. Another reads a book. A few others kill time with light and classically ruthless banter — a ruthlessness couched in the comfort and security of brotherhood. The team has toiled and suffered to get to this point, and now what lies ahead rests squarely on the shoulders of what was done before. It's a scene lived by many of us over the span of our adult lives. It is etched firmly into the memory and recalled from time to time by sensory inputs that sometimes defy a logical connection.
About four months ago, I stood amid a similar scene. I was in Montana observing the culmination of a new program our organization recently put together. Warriors & Quiet Waters enables post-9/11 combat veterans to find peace, meaning, and purpose through immersive activities in nature, primarily fly-fishing. This new program, called Hunt for Purpose, is designed to do the same thing — only the immersive activity is archery elk hunting. Over the previous six months, five hunters and their companions had prepared their bodies, minds, and spirits for the opportunity to hunt the majestic Montana elk. This day was the first day of the hunt.
I looked around the mess tent, and the feeling came back to me in a flash. I watched as one of the hunters adjusted his gear and refilled his canteen. Another poured a cup of coffee. Yet another stood staring silently out the door at the horizon that ever so slightly displayed hints of the daybreak nearly two hours away. A few others chatted in that same playful, irreverent, and cutthroat style that only a veteran would understand — and endure. Then the guides walked in, and everything changed. The mood and activity shifted instantly to the business at hand. Last-minute updates were passed, adjustments were made, and then everyone kitted up and headed out the door.
When I was in the Marines, the "best job I ever had" was as a Platoon Sergeant. I was surrounded by amazing people who worked and played hard every day. Because the position was at the tactical level, I occasionally got out and got dirty, too. But the best thing about being a Platoon Sergeant was being a full-time mentor. I watched people I grew to love "figure it out," overcome failure, and achieve success. It was wonderful, and one of the images in my mind associated with that process was watching them head out on missions. Whether they inserted by air or ground, there was always a point where they turned away from me and headed out to "do work" together.
On that cool September morning in Southwest Montana, I watched the hunters and their companions walk out of the camp ahead of the breaking dawn. As I stood there washed in that old familiar feeling, I was transported once more to another time — back to the days of what has now become the "second-best job I ever had".
This post was written by Chip Raybon, Chief Program and Strategy Officer at Warriors & Quiet Waters.