BWCA Trip Brings Peace, Tranquility to Local Veterans
Click Below if You'd Like to Donate to the 2020 Veterans to the BWCA Trip
LAKE ISABELLA, Minn. – More than a dozen area veterans recently returned home after experiencing a life changing getaway.
The annual Veterans to the BWCA excursion started in 2018 after Hayes Scriven, Executive Director of the Richard I. Bong Veterans Historical Center in Superior, wanted to come up with a way to give back while also helping disabled veterans and those struggling with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
“I wanted to kind of combine two things; my work and something that I love,” said Scriven.
Throughout the two groups this year there were fifteen veterans, minnows, and memories in the making.
“We’ve been telling stories, jokes, they’ve been catching fish and they’re just instant friends,” said Scriven.
The only thing louder than laughter on approach to camp were the waves washing ashore as eagles soar through the horizon.
“Talking with a couple of the vets, where they like to recharge themselves is in the outdoors,” said Scriven.
Scriven enjoys exploring and getting lost in the woods with good company while also making a difference.
“The instant comradery they have with each other, you don’t see that anywhere else,” said Scriven.
Actions, often speaking louder than words with the former troops he takes on the trip.
“Once they hit the water, they just unwind. You can feel that exhale and they’re just like, I don’t have to worry about anything,” said Scriven.
With just one week of detaching from a regular routine, the veterans are forgetting some of the worries in their world.
“Sum it up in a few words; it doesn’t get much better than this,” said Spooner native and U.S. Army veteran Martin Karpa.
Karpa was chosen to come along on this year’s trip.
“They called me gramps in boot camp; I was 35 years old when I went through,” Karpa remarked.
He along with each and every one of his comrades at camp are hand selected to attend with a reason behind the relaxation.
“At the time I had a friend who was ten years my senior and he had got a draft deferment, he was the only son on the farm so he never had military experience,” said Karpa.
As Karpa moved closer to the Army’s cutoff age of 350years-old, he and his friend shared a conversation about whether he wanted to serve or not. With four children and an ongoing career, the decision dangled in the back of hismind.
“He made one simple comment that I thought about for a couple days. He said Marty, I never had the military experience and I’ve always wished I did,” said Karpa. “I saw myself in ten years being in the same boat, saying to myself, I always wish I’d done that.”
So Karpa served his country, working as a machinist in the army. He says the sacrifice was worth it, but returning to civilian life is something only a veteran can truly understand.
As the two groups of veterans use a map to guide themselves through the Boundary Waters, they’re also using it to navigate back into civilian life.
“So far, Tim and I are the only ones that have caught fish, so we’re out fishing and they’re here making camp,” remarked Northland native and Marine veteran Kyle Horton.
Horton comes to camp with a wealth of knowledge about the outdoors.
“We’re the hunters; they’re the gatherers I guess,” said Horton.
Horton can handle pretty much anything that comes his way, but making friends and trusting others since his time in the service continues to be an every day challenge.
“Just meeting new people, I didn’t know any of them so I was a little nervous about that but just like our time in the service, we all get along and give each other crap,” said Horton.
He says having the opportunity to go on this year’s trip has, and will continue helping him better return to civilian life.
“Reach out for help if you need it. It’s not making you a lesser man,” said Horton.
“There’s something magical about the Boundary Waters. As soon as you get out here you feel the weight of the world lifted off you. More than likely you don’t have cell service, you don’t have planes, you don’t hear cars, and you don’t hear other people hopefully,” said Scriven.
Even though the veterans come from different background with many stories untold, one thing they agree on is the importance of clearing their minds of war thoughts and images.
“This group did the same thing. Instantly they bonded,” said Scriven.
Bonding while sitting back, paddling, portaging, and or course, enjoying fresh caught fish with a few jokes attached.
“If you have the opportunity, even if you have experience coming up here to the BWCA. If the opportunity arises to participate in a group like this, I would say do it,” said Karpa.
“Every once in a while you get a mosquito or something but right now the loons are going off and the eagles flying around, there’s nothing better,” said Scriven.
Veterans to the BWCA is fully funded thanks to generous donations.
The groups take a DAV bus to Ely, spending one day before and after their trek at Veterans on the Lake.
The groups are generously outfitted by Canadian Waters for their wilderness excursion.
If you’d like to donate to next year’s trip, click here.