Nonprofit aims to connect veterans outdoorsApril 11, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
After battling post-traumatic stress disorder for years, Luke Bawel’s brother-in-law took his own life in 2017, leaving behind family and friends who loved him dearly.
He and Luke were close. When he was alive, the two spent lots of time together outdoors with their other brothers, Tyler Flick and Brock Bawel.
“That was where my brother-in-law was free,” Luke said in a Tuesday phone interview. “That was where he was himself. He was able to just let go and didn’t have any care in the world.”
About two years after his passing, the trio of Jasper-born brothers launched a new nonprofit organization in February named Brothers for Veterans. The group aims to get veterans and active duty service members who are on leave into nature and show them that people do care about them. One hundred percent of funds raised go directly to the military participants — and their families — to fully fund their experiences through the group.
Neither Luke nor his brothers are veterans, but their family has a history of military service. He said the group’s activities aren’t designed to be counseling sessions, but are instead just hangouts in the great outdoors. It’s also a way for fellow veterans to connect.
“I’m not seeking out to try and ask them about their experience or if they need help,” Luke said. “My thing is, I’m just there because I care about them and I want to be their friend. And if that helps a relationship start, great.”
Instead of big groups, the nonprofit’s outings are done on a smaller scale, allowing for meaningful friendships to form. Brothers for Veterans’ first event was a turkey hunt that took place a couple weeks ago. Three more turkey hunts are planned for later this spring, as are fishing trips. Fall events are also on the group’s radar.
The group’s first big fundraising event, a bowfishing tournament, will take place on Saturday, June 22. Participants will meet at 7 p.m. at the Jasper Engines & Transmissions parking lot on Saturday night and head off to various bodies of water across Indiana and Kentucky. It’s a full-night experience, Luke explained.
“The neat thing with this tournament is we’re working with all the folks that are signing up for the event, they’re gonna have an open spot on their boat to take a veteran out with them,” Luke said. “So, again, even through this big event we’re doing, we want to get veterans involved in that as well.”
Those who would like to assist the nonprofit in any way and veterans interested in events are encouraged to reach out on the Brothers for Veterans Facebook page or email BrothersForVeterans@gmail.com. The group also has a website, BrothersForVeterans.net.
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