Veterans Transition: Back Into Civilian Life
When I meet people doing meaningful, give back oriented work I immediately want to join in and support! Today, in advance celebration of Labor Day and our veterans, an e-interview with DJ Williams, founder of Just One Day, an organization founded by veterans for veterans to assist those disabled during their service.
As is written on the JOD website:
Just One Day, Ltd. sponsors, arranges and conducts fishing trips throughout the year, mainly in Colorado. The general focus is to provide a one-day outing away from the military routine, hospitals and medical facilities and give our wounded warriors an opportunity to simply “unwind” and relax in a peaceful outdoor environment, and to rehabilitate and reintegrate with society through kayaking, fishing and being in the great outdoors. Our next goal is to offer our services in adjoining states wherever a Wounded Transition Battalion exists.
1. What was your motivation for launching JOD?
During my service in the Marine Corps from 1987 to 1991, I served during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. While serving in Desert Storm I was involved in the helicopter crashed. About 15 years later, I was ultimately diagnosed with Gulf War Syndrome and, during testing in the Special Disease Department at the VA Hospital,they found that I had severe back injuries. I was being treated for PTSD at the same time. In 2004 had my first back surgery and nine months later I had my second back surgery. While I was recuperating from surgeries and dealing with Gulf War syndrome, I was in bed for a whole year. It was during this time I decided that I couldn’t live like this and that I needed to get up and start doing something. I’ve always loved fishing – I’ve fished since I was a little kid. So, I started going to a local park near my house to fish. I started off once a week and I now go pretty much seven days a week which has helped me tremendously with my recovery. The VA Hospital has noticed how much I have improved by being outdoors and fishing, so much so that I no longer have to go to the VA five times a week for physical and mental therapy.
Seeing how much being outdoors and the fishing have helped me with my recovery, I wanted to do something for soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan war. Getting out for “just one day” had made such a big difference in my recovery and that’s how I came up with the name Just One Day. JOD was started in early 2010 and we areinvolved with the Army base, Fort Carson, here in Colorado. They have a unit called the WTU (Wounded Transition Unit) and after we became involved with the WTU, we started getting a lot of support from the base and the wounded soldiers. At the same time, we have gotten sponsors to help us out and support JOD. We now have EagleClaw, Bass Pro fisherman Jack Winters, Anglers All, USA Fly Casters, Colorado Men’sClub; Bass Pro helps us out with major events.
2. What’s the JOD mission and how do you achieve it?
JOD’s mission is to help as many soldiers returning home with physical or mental scars get back to doing things that they like to do. Colorado is very “outdoors-y” and we notedthat there was a big interest in fishing, snowboarding, skiing and outdoor adventures.Our goal every year is to help as many soldiers as we can the next year, and we will be doubling our fishing trips and outdoor adventures. We will be opening JOD chapters in California and Kansas. Many of my Marine Corps buddies with whom I served are willing to open a JOD chapter in their hometowns and our goal to have as manychapters across the United States as we can to help as many soldiers as we can.
3. Can you share a success story of someone whose life has been positively impacted by JOD?
One that I consider one of our best success stories happened on our first trip of the season this year. A soldier name Alex came on our first fishing trip this year; he had learned about us through the WTU at Fort Carson. At the start of the trip, he didn’t want to talk anybody and just wanted to be alone. We at JOD understand this and while we hope that the participants will interact with each other and our staff, we let them do what they want and don’t press or force them into doing anything they don’t want to do. About two thirds through the day, Alex came over to a picnic table and sat down and started talking to me and other soldiers. We talked for about an hour; he opened up to me and told me about how much this state meant to him and things he had never faced before in his life, and that this trip had best thing that had happened to him in a long time. Alexthen showed up for the second trip and came over to me and the other JOD volunteers,shook our hands and thanked us for helping him get back into doing things. He told us that he had marked this trip on his calendar and asked every day until our next event.He also he showed up with a brand new fishing pole and $500 for the fishing gear, andtold us that he had signed up for all the rest of the trips that had been scheduled for this year. Alex was again present on our third trip and told me and the JOD volunteers that he had been out fishing every day since the last time we had seen him. He posts pictures on his page of all his catches. At the end of that third trip, he talked to his mom on the phone and told her that after the trip with JOD, he was heading to Puebloreservoir to fish that evening. Alex has since thanked all of us so much for helping himfind something to get his life heading back into the right direction. It’s been extremely gratifying to see the progress that Alex has made in just a few short months.
4. If people wanted to get involved, both as volunteers or as participants, how would they do that?
One of the things that I must say is thank you to all the volunteers that help us on every event. I also cannot do this without the officers that are involved with JOD. Most of thevolunteers that come out on our trips return for every trip that we have and I cannot thank them enough. If anybody would like to volunteer, they can contact us at www.justoneday.net. We welcome anybody who would love to volunteer for our events, especially if they have any experience with fishing, skiing and snowboarding. We also need volunteers to help to set up the lunches we provide at our events or help with fundraisers. With me being 100% disabled, I cannot do this without volunteers. I am hoping that by next year, we can raise enough money to take the soldiers at least twice a month on a fishing trip or an outdoor adventure. Donations are needed and 100% isgiven back to these soldiers that have given so much.
Just One Day was conceived as an outdoor adventure company to take soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, and guardsmen for a one-day fishing trip to nearby lakes, streams and ponds on public and private land. The idea was created to provide the men and women from Wounded Transition Units (WTU) with an opportunity to get away from their base, post or station, and enjoy a day away from the military hospitals and just relax in the great outdoors. The concept was to give our disabled heroes some free time to simply enjoy nature and experience a break in their medical recovery program routine, and to help them with their physical and mental rehabilitation. The success JOD has experienced is very gratifying, and reports have come back to JOD from supervisory military personnel that the break in routine and the outdoor activity has had a very positive effect on all of those who have attended these outings. For more information about Just One Day click here.