In 2011 Troy Yocum set out on a 17-month journey traveling 7,880 miles on foot across the United States to raise awareness of veteran suicide rates and to help families affected by the suicides.
He walked through 38 states and went to as many media outlets as possible to get his story out there — a story of the loss of his grandfather, a WWII veteran, in 1980 after a battle with PTSD from the war and then the loss of a “battle buddy” in the United States.
His journey raised $1.3 million and allowed him to start the Active Heroes charity.
The stated mission of Active Heroes is to end veteran suicide. With the Department of Defense noting that 22 veterans take their own lives each day, Yocum said one of his goals is to make the transition from war to civilian life a smoother one for veterans.
He does so through the Active Heroes Veteran Retreat Center, a 144-acre tract of land in Shepherdsville, which will have 18 cabins by the time it’s finished and be offered as a free place for vets to visit. As it is now, in the first 18 months of its existence, more than 700 veterans have visited the Retreat, whether it’s to camp, visit or volunteer.
Thursday morning 35 Brown-Forman employees gathered as part of their BRAVE program, (Brown-Forman Military Veteran Employee Resource Group) to help clear brush and debris, weed the wooded area and prep for a new road.
“We feel volunteering and giving back where people’s passions lie is important,” Karen Krinock, manager of Global Giving at Brown-Forman, said. “This is our third time coming out here and each time we’ve walked away with an incredible sense of accomplishment. We love it,” she said.
Of the Brown-Forman volunteers, many were military veterans as well. “It’s always good when you can give back and have your company sponsor giving back,” Rob Price, a Brown-Forman employee and third generation Marine veteran said.
“Veterans have been through a lot and it’s been a tough hard war, and getting back to normal (once you’ve come home) is tough. They need places (like Active Heroes Veteran Retreat Center) to get back to. I have empathy for them and I know what they’re going through and I want to help,” said Thomas Mattingly, a Brown-Forman employee and Navy veteran.
Although they’ve come a long way since Yocum purchased the land in 2013, there’s still a lot of work to be done. To find out more information go to www.activeheroes.org.