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WJTV Special Report: Warrior Bonfire program lights the way for modern day vets

VICKSBURG, Miss (WJTV) - Vicksburg, MS (WJTV) - Coming home from war can make for a tough transition for some veterans.

"Combat is the hardest thing to explain to somebody because nobody that has never served can even imagine what its like," says Warrior Bonfire ambassador Allen Pugh.

After returning from Iraq, Allen Pugh says he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and he says going to the VA was not enough.

"Those guys over there have no clue," says Pugh. "Most of them are civilians. They do what they can, but it's still not the same. They want to medicate you. They want you to sit and talk with counselors that may or may not [have] ever seen combat."

Five years ago, Dan Fordice and his brother started the Warrior Bonfire Program to help post-9/11 Purple Heart veterans. Their goal: to bring veterans together for self-healing.

"We ask them, rather than us trying to figure out what they need and telling them what they need," says Dan Fordice, Co-founder of the Warrior Bonfire Program. "We ask them what we can do to help them and try to give them that."

The program takes veterans on a long weekend trip. Sometimes they go hunting; other times they go fishing. The group has even gone skiing.

"When we got them there, something happened that totally surprised us," says Fordice. "Within five minutes, these six guys who didnt know each other were like they were best friends again."

Pugh says he went on his first trip in 2015. During his trip, he shared a story with the veterans. He says he struggles with his son's birthday because it's the same day a roadside bomb hit a vehicle he was in while in Iraq.

"I want to be excited for my son on his birthday [be]cause it's his birthday, but I also reflect back to every anniversary," Pugh says. "You know that trauma and watching my driver take his last breath."

Pugh says the program gave him the one thing he was missing - a brotherhood.

"Trust me, that was hard," says Pugh. "There [are] ups and downs. That's when you get in your phone, and you call these guys and say 'I'm having that day.'"

"These men and women who have been with us, virtually 100 percent, have told us that this is the most therapeutic thing that they've ever done in their life, and we need to continue doing what we're doing," says Fordice.

After going through the program, Pugh became an ambassador for it, so he could help other veterans.

"The Warrior Bonfire Program not only got me out of a dark place in my life, just not happy, no brothers, they also helped me obtain a job and get me into my own business," says Pugh.

"It has been very rewarding to see where he(Pugh) has come from the day that I first met him until today and what the program has done for him," says Fordice.

Pugh says words cannot express his gratitude.

"He(Fordice) knows every day how thankful I am," says Pugh.

Warrior Bonfire Program leaders say they also work with spouses of wounded veterans to help them in their transition after deployment.

If you or someone you know is a post-9/11 Purple Heart veteran who would benefit from the program, click this link for more information.

 


 


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