Healing Heroes Through the Great Outdoors | Heartland Stories
Each day, 22 veterans take their own lives.
It’s a statistic that causes great concern, and the reason Justin Kane founded St. Micheal’s Iron Horse Charities—an organization dedicated to reacclimatizing those who serve us all back into society by reconnecting them to the great outdoors.
“Simply returning to some semblance of normality is extremely difficult,” Kane said. “At St. Michael’s, we host retreats that give veterans a way to reclaim their lives and help them get back to normal after suffering injuries—both physically and mentally—during combat.“
The organization’s retreat center was developed back in the 1830s but has since been renovated to accommodate all veterans, no matter their physical challenges or disabilities.
“So many of the vets love the outdoors, and when they become hurt, they thought, ‘Well, that’s over with,’” Kane said. “We’ve created a means for them to be able to get up in ladder stands or deer houses or out fishing. Otherwise, they just wouldn’t be able to.”
The facility hosts about 15 retreats a year, each with around 10-12 participating vets. One of Kane’s favorite aspects of running the charity is watching the transformation of each participant over the course of just a weekend.
“It’s amazing—on Friday they’ll come in, and you can tell they’re a little hesitant,” Kane said. “By Sunday or Monday, when the outing breaks up, [it’s all] smiles and having a great time. In our own little way here in Alabama, we’re hopefully helping them.”