Latasha Dawson lost her husband, Staff Sgt. Darris Dawson, an infantry Soldier, in 2008 while he was serving in Iraq. She took her four sons; Darris Jr., 12, Day’von, 10, Ty’Darrion, 9, and Benjamin, 2, to the Patriot Hunts Outdoor Kids Day, Saturday, in Stedman, North Carolina, she said, to keep them connected to military events.
“They have fun while doing it, so they are coping and they don’t even know they’re coping,” said Dawson, who participates in Fort Bragg Survivor Outreach Services events.
SOS-attached Families and military-connected persons took part in Outdoor Kids Day, facilitated by Patriot Hunts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing outdoor recreation, particularly for wounded warriors and Gold Star Families.
“They get an opportunity to be together and just kind of be outside and have fun and it takes them away from the electronics and TV,” said Charlotte Watson, Fort Bragg’s SOS program manager.
Some of the day’s activities included ziplining, four-wheeling, target shooting, lunch, corn hole and a jump in by the Black Daggers Parachute Demonstration Team. The location of the event was land previously owned by Ken Barnard, CEO of Patriot Hunts, and now owned by Dan and Alisa Hayes.
Barnard had routinely allowed Families to enjoy the land and the Hayes’ said they wanted to continue that tradition.
“It blesses our heart. We are so thankful for all that they (military) do for us as a country. They’re the salt of the Earth,” Dan said.
Retired Air Force Tech Sgt. Matt Lutynski attended Outdoor Kids Day with his wife, Bonnie and children; Bailey, 9 and Sophie, 7. Matt said he has been taking part in Patriot Hunt events for six years simply to benefit his children.
“It’s all about them. It’s not about me,” he explained.
Jameson Russell, 6, caught his first fish at the outing.
What did he think of the catch?
“(It’s) cool,” said Jameson, who attended along with his twin brother, Christian, and their father, 1st Sgt. Joshua Russell, a Fort Bragg Soldier.
To Joshua, the day seems to have provided a good opportunity.
“I have deployed a considerable amount of time over the years. It’s important for me to come to get Family time,” he explained.
Staff Sgt. Angel Hernandez, also a Fort Bragg Soldier, agreed.
“I’m always working. This is a good time to, I guess, kind of forget about work for a little bit and just enjoy —while I’m young — time with my kids … I really appreciate this event. It’s kind of awesome.”
Karina Classen, 10, the daughter of an Army veteran, shot a pellet gun alongside Family members.
“It’s good shooting. I’m having fun with them (Family),” she said.
In a sense, Classen was completing a mission.
“The main objective is to have fun,” Barnard said.
For more information about Patriot Hunts, visit www.patriothunts.org. For more information about Fort Bragg Survivor Outreach Services, located in Building 2-1361 Knox St., visit https://bragg.armymwr.com/programs/sos or call 396-0394.