CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. — "Operation Outdoor Freedom," the first and only program of its kind in the nation, has helped more than 4,000 wounded veterans participate in over 500 outdoor, recreational and rehabilitative events throughout the state.
"Many people don’t understand," said Richard Hunt a purple heart recipient.
Richard Hunt got hurt in Vietnam. He says many times, veterans feel alone and lost.
"This is a place where some of our lost souls come together and realize they aren’t."
The new American Pride Lodge at Withlacoochee State Forest is a place where veterans who participate in Operation Outdoor Freedom can stay.
"There’s no other program in the country doing what we do on the scale of how we do it," said David Hunt, from the Florida Forest Service and state coordinator for Operation Outdoor Freedom.
The program allows wounded veterans to come together for outdoor events like hunting and fishing, all for free.
"We’re bumping up against 4000 veterans who’ve participated in over 500 events enjoying Florida's magnificent outdoors on public lands and on private lands," said Adam Putnam, Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture who helped start the program with the Florida Forest Service a few years ago.
But Hunt says the events are merely tools, that it's being in the company of brothers and sisters who understand, where the healing begins.
"In many cases not only has it been life-altering, it's been life-saving," said Hunt.
For more information on Operation Outdoor Freedom, visit their website.