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Veterans keep on giving

By submitted, 09/7/19 8:03 AM

Serving and giving back have always been integral parts of retired First Sergeants Johnny Blake and Carl Hall’s mantra. The two believe healing and restoration are possible through supportive networks, helping others, the community, and the country. The duo decided to put their beliefs to the test.

Blake who currently resides in Alabama and Hall in Tennessee met while stationed at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma and reconnected at a coon hunting event in Tennessee sponsored to raise money for St. Jude’s Hospital. It was at the event the pair began brainstorming and formulating a plan to create a non-profit to support and provide encouragement for veterans who were suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), some of whom were their friends. The organization would provide veterans with an outlet to vent and release frustrations and celebrate triumphs among friends and fellow brethrens who understood what they were confronting.

The organization would also provide veterans with a means of giving back. Through monthly meetings and outings, veterans could bond with others who understood what they were going through. They could be the support that each other needed. Consequently, Veterans Hard Running Tank Hunting Club was created the spring of 2018. “The purpose of the organization is to help veterans suffering with post traumatic stress disorder productively acclimate back into society as well as allow them to continue to serve and give back to others.” Blake said. “Service has been their lives. They need to feel wanted and needed.”

Blake and Hall understood the stress and strain that accompanied completing tours in Desert Storm, Desert Shield, and Iraqi Freedom. In Iraq, Blake ran a transportation brigade with more than 500 soldiers under his leadership. Hall had also been an equally successful military leader. The officers knew suicide was a real issue facing veterans who often lacked support when they returned home from their tours. The statistics were disturbing.  According to the United States Department of Veteran Affairs, nationally more than 6,000 veterans committed suicide in 2016.  In Arkansas, where Blake was born and raised 79 veterans committed suicide. Thirty-three of those veterans were between the ages of 55-74.  Mississippi, Hall’s home state, was not far behind; 50 veterans took their own lives. The two veterans planned to do their part to help those numbers decline.  

Veterans Hard Running Tank Hunting Club, which hopes to expand its outreach in Arkansas, Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi, continued its mission by giving back to Nevada County youth from the Prescott Housing Authority, the county where Blake was born and raised. Students were presented with book bags stuffed with nutritious snacks to help them begin the 2019-2020 academic year, compliments of Veterans Hard Running Tank Hunting Club. For Blake, it felt good to give back to his community through the veteran’s organization he co-founded.