A Boaz native and Army veteran Spc. Matt Brannon has been going above and beyond to provide experiences of a lifetime for military men and women injured in combat.
Brannon has been giving back to the Purple Heart community by working with the Wounded Warrior in Action foundation, where he wears many hats, serving on the board of directors as a guide and event host.
In 2012, when Brannon got out of the military he said he went straight to work and was trying to maintain life with a wife and two kids at that time. He's had another daughter since then, which has given him little time to deal with the mental aspects of war and leaving the military.
All that changed when a close friend invited him on a hunting trip for a weekend, and that allowed him to begin his journey to recover mentally.
"I got away from the world," he said. "It was just me, the woods and God's creation, and I thought, man every veteran that is struggling and going through what I'm going through needs this in their lives."
After another hunting trip in New York, Brannon joined the WWIA as a guide to help veterans like him.
When asked what his most memorable event was, Brannon said, "It's hard to nail down one, but an event he hosted last year in Alabama had a man from Pennsylvania who was struggling not only with his own disabilities, but his daughter also had a rare disease. The man had hardly left his home in years, but his wife had signed him up with WWIA and he flew to Alabama."
The event affected the man so much that when Brannon was taking him back to the airport, he asked to join the WWIA and is now an event host in Pennsylvania.
"It seems like every event we do something to that effect happens," Brannon said. "You know, we call it the 'magic' I don't know how to explain it, I don't know what it is, but just our model and the way we do things there's always one guy, but sometimes two or three guys it just it's a life-changing event for them and it's really special to see."
The organization conducts 47 events annually in 35 states, helping nearly 300 Purple Heart recipients. They provide experiences from bear hunting in Canada and Vermont to deep-sea, lake and river fishing.
Brannon said his goal was to tell others about the foundation so they, too, could get involved.
"The older guys, the Vietnam era guys, just don't know about these type things and have went their whole lives and have never been served," he said. "We would love if we could get the word out and get those guys signed up so we could take them out on one of our trips. That's the best thing people could do for us, send us people that haven't had this opportunity."
Brannon wanted to remind any veterans who may be struggling this holiday season that no matter how long and dark some days are, the sun always rises on another opportunity, and if you give up today, you won't have those opportunities.
WWIA was founded by Lt. Col. (ret) John McDaniel, a retired Army Officer, in 2007. McDaniel felt that his service was not finished. As a concerned veteran, he took a few wounded warriors on hunting and fishing trips. He quickly realized the positive impact, but he could not support this alone, so in 2009, WWIA became a 501(c)3 nonprofit and began its journey to change and save lives.
If you are a Purple Heart recipient and would like to apply or if you know someone who would like to attend an experience, click here.
Twenty-two veterans lose the battle to post-traumatic stress every day. If you or someone you know are struggling or having suicidal thoughts, reach out to your local emergency services or call the Veteran's Crisis Line by dialing 988 or texting 838255.
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