My name is Chris Gill, from Tyler, Texas. I spent 25 years in the Army, Army National Guard and finally the Army Reserves. I am currently the Founder and President of Lone Star Warriors Outdoors. This organization was created to reconnect the Wounded Warrior with the outdoors, or to introduce them to something new. We take warriors of all disabilities, and show them that they can do the same thing that others do, and have fun no matter what injuries they have. We are a new organization, created in 2011, so we are still working towards getting more ranches, ATV spots, or anything that is ADA compliant.
So a little about me… In 1987, I joined the Army and went to BCT (Basic Combat Training) at Fort Jackson, SC. After finishing BCT and AIT (training for your job), I was stationed at the best place in the world, Fort Polk LA, 5th Div infantry. Those of you who have been there know that I am joking. I grew up in Louisiana and the last thing I wanted to do was to be stationed there.
While I was in the National Guard, the Gulf war came and went and I still was not deployed even though I volunteered. It wasn’t until 2005 that I finally had the opportunity to go to Afghanistan and jumped at the chance. That may sound bizarre, but I tell people that it’s like a doctor that goes through years of schooling and never gets to practice. I wanted to put all my hard work and training to use so off I went. So in Feb of 2005 I deployed, did my training and went to Afghanistan.
It was like going into another time zone. Few people had electricity, it was dirty and smelled, but I had a great time for the most part. My job was to work with the Afghan Army and teach them how to be a fighting force. Surprisingly enough, the part they had trouble with was the little things like keeping track of fuel, or uniforms. The fighting part came natural.
In October 2005, I was injured during a rocket attack on base which busted up my left knee, both shoulders and my neck. I was sent to Germany and then back to Fort Hood for surgery.
After surgery and six months of rehab, I felt somewhat normal, but people still looked at me funny. Whenever I went anywhere on my crutches, I stood out. And someone was always trying to help me. I simply wanted to be treated like everyone else. I was still me, just could not do what I used to, but did not want attention. I remember going to my daughters basketball game in another town, still on crutches and people found out why and they were tripping over themselves trying to help me. It was nice, but not something I wanted.
Because of my injuries, I was invited to attend a Wounded Warrior hunt in West Texas. At the time, I had finally gotten to the point where I had started hunting more. Deer hunting, turkey, doves, hogs and well you get the point. I kind of got hooked on it. So when the opportunity came up to hunt a big ranch, I jumped at it.
I had a wonderful time and my wife was invited too, so it was a family event. That was really important to me and something I will never forget. Many times the wives get left out when in a lot of cases they have the hardest job. When I was deployed, I constantly knew what threat level I was at, but for the family I left behind, they thought I was getting shot at 24/7. And our wives are the ones who are at our sides while we are in the hospital, going through rehab and when we’re learning how to adjust to daily life post-war. Needless to say, my wife and I had a great time on that hunt and I harvested my biggest deer ever at the time.
After that, I began the process of starting my non-profit organization, Lone Star Warriors Outdoors. There are many organizations out there that do the same thing, but we like to think we are different.
Many groups have a mission, to say thanks to these guys and take them hunting. Our mission is different. First, we want to help them heal, and second, we want to get them on a hunt, or ATV ride or fishing trip or whatever they want. We sit around at night and allow the guys to talk about things that they cannot talk about around family, things that bother them but they have nobody to talk to.
Unfortunately our bylaws only allow us to take Wounded Warriors from the Gulf war on, but I understand that PTSD is not only something that Military guys have. I was told by a doctor a great analogy that applies to all. PTSD is like a Dam at a lake. It holds water in, but let’s very little out at the top, the spill way. Our brain is the same way. The human mind cannot suppress only one thing, it suppressed everything and allows a little out. So for these guys that have so much in their heads, they try to hide and push back the emotion but they end up suppressing more. I was close to being fired from my job because of that and that is the reason I started this program.
So far, it has been our honor to meet the men that have sacrificed mind and body for our freedom. We get to spend time with them and tell them and help them to realize that it is all right to hurt, but they can heal.
This year, 2014 we will take our second triple amputee. If they can recover, anyone can! If you know of any Wounded Warriors, please refer them to our web page to fill out an application for one of our hunts. We look forward to taking out as many as we can.
Lone Star Warriors Outdoors
P.O. Box 131103
Tyler, Texas 75713