|Church camp offers comfort to wounded veterans|
A UMNS Report
By Heidi Robinson*
July 1, 2009 | BUCKHEAD, Ga.
“Next time, I want to ride on that thing with my kids,” shouts
retired Col. Bob Quinn as a sleek boat pulls six grinning children on
an inflatable toy across the green surface of Lake Oconee.
The summertime living is easy along this lake about an hour east of
Atlanta. And that is a good thing for wounded military veterans and
their families enjoying a weekend of fun at the United Methodist
camp Collinswood of Aldersgate Homes.
Jessica Galle (left) and Ty enjoy a boat
ride with camp director Becky Bosian.
The retreat was the result of a partnership between veterans and
officials at Collinswood searching for ways to assist soldiers
returning home from service, particularly those among the more than
30,000 wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The United Methodist Church cares about these families,” says Becky
Bocian, executive director of Collinswood. “We honor their service and
we want them to have a place to heal, to experience acceptance and to
use a facility that offers them the opportunity to enjoy recreational
time with their family again, no matter their physical limitations from
their tours of duties.”
Bocian and a team of veterans from the American Legion in Alpharetta,
Ga., who organized the weekend, greet the guests with applause.
“Let’s give this young Marine a warm welcome,” says retired Navy pilot
John McLaughlin as Lt. Josh Galle and his family enter the dining hall
on a Saturday morning.
“We need to honor these men and women who are coming back,” says McLaughlin.
”They are fighting a very, very difficult war. They come back; they are
injured; they’re uncomfortable going back into public settings because
they’ve been changed. We want to provide the stepping stones to come
Galle, 26, who was injured during three tours of duty in Iraq, enjoys
being able to relax at Collinswood with his wife, Jessica, and their
6-month old son, Ty.
Iraq veteran Josh Galle and his 6-month-old son, Ty, enjoy time at the lake at Camp Collinswood in Georgia. UMNS
photos by Heidi Robinson.
“Having a facility like this where veterans can just relax, where
people are focused on abilities, not disabilities…I think it will open
veterans’ eyes and their hearts,” says Galle. “I’m excited not just for
myself, but also to experience this place and tell other veterans from
Quinn suffered a disabling knee injury in Baghdad during his last tour
of active duty and his son, Trey, has cerebral palsy. He was glad
Collinswood is a universally accessible property from its residential
cabins to the paved nature trail and the lakefront dock.
United Methodist Men’s groups, primarily from the North Georgia
Conference of The United Methodist Church, built wheelchair accessible
nature trails and ramps that lead to the dock.
“Trey … uses a walker,” Quinn says. “Here at Collinswood he goes
wherever he wants … whether it’s down to the dock, onto the boat, on
the trail. He has the freedom to go where his heart leads him.”
While boat rides and nature walks offer one kind of healing for returning veterans, camaraderie provides another.
“All veterans need opportunities like this,” says 64-year-old Jack
Merritt, a retired member of the Army helicopter cavalry. “We have
Iraqi veterans coming back who are in my anger management class who are
as angry as we were when we came back from Vietnam. We need to help
them replace the negative images of violence, ill will, and combat that
soldiers collect during service, with happy times like those made here.
Those memories of war are not what the Lord wants us to hold on to.… He
wants us to remember times like this.”
Galle cradles his 6-month-old son and gently helps him into an infant life vest for Ty’s first boat ride.
Galle says his wife “may not have served any time in combat, but she
has definitely been in service. She was behind me every moment I was
The young couple sits on the boat gazing across the lake and toward the future.
“We just bought a house outside Atlanta,” Jessica Galle says. “We’re
building our future. These men and women who serve … they have to come
back and get used to doing everyday activities with their families
again, even driving, going places together. It takes time to readjust
to everyday life. It is real outreach when the church makes this camp
available to families.”
*Robinson is a freelance producer based in Winston-Salem, N.C.
News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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