Last year I attended the Veterans Outdoors Adventures' 2nd Annual Women's Retreat and it was one adventure that I will never forget. This year, I went as part of VOAND’s ambassadors and got to be a part of 5 other women experiencing what I got to last year.
This year, we all met at Izzy and Josh’s ranch the night before the retreat. It was a fun car ride down to Mott, over to Mott, eh…who knows really….directions aren’t my thing, regardless it was a fun ride to Mott. I rode with Kim, someone I knew a bit and had encouraged to apply. The ride there we spoke a lot of the impending storm, concerts, mainly P!nk and Hanson, our inability to tell directions unless pointing forward and going through the Never, Eat, Soggy, Wheat scenario and my inability to drive a 5 speed. But more on Kim later.
We had a bon fire and watched the lightening roll in. Once the storm got close we all moved into the bunks in the basement and had a sleep over, with 7 women ranging in age from 29 to 56, all who have or are serving this country. Over the next few days I got to know everyone pretty well. If we are being honest I could write a page about each woman, but I will sum it up.
Izzy - the founder of VOA and a powerhouse of a woman who is determined to serve our veterans. Through her stories and passion you can learn so much from her. The best thing she taught me this trip, how to throw a hatchet. Her desire to improve the lives of those who have served this country pop up in little ways and they always result in fun. I will never be able to thank her for these adventures.
Susie – she lost to me in the who’s taller competition. Not something that happens often. Overcoming her fear to get on the horse, reminded me a lot of myself getting in the river last year. Sometimes things that may not seem scary or like a big deal can almost paralyze us with fear and watching her on Morgan, made it crystal clear why we do these retreats. Her genuine enthusiasm for each of us and listening to her talk about her husband and emotion as we were saying our goodbyes are just a few of the things that I will remember about her.
LeAnn - She likes to lick windows and is slightly obsessed with unicorns, which is perfect because there is no other spirit animal for her. Her lumbersnack has turned her into a softy compared to last year but she is one of the strongest women I know and the person I would want backing me in any situation, especially when it involves flying out of a school bus seat.
Diane – She is the type of free spirit I wish I could be. Her stories of travel and a career in education are ones that hook you from the beginning. Her whimsical nature was fun to be around but more so was a nature that provided a sense of feeling safe and calm just being around. And let’s be honest just had the best hair of any of us on the trip.
Crystal - my sure let’s do a shot girl. Crystal provided a sense of adventure and courage out of the whole trip. She did her best to keep me safe in the bus seat, always willing to throw up her foot to use as a barricade. She is the epitome of a good NCO and someone you are proud to say you know.
Kat – we bonded quickly over a few of my favorite things. The Team RWB Eagle, our height (or lack thereof), good makeup, and our ability to fall a lot. For the first time on a trip, I wasn’t worried about photos because I knew Kat had that covered. She drove through quite a storm to get to the retreat, one I honestly would have just hit the brakes and said screw this, but we are all glad she was there.
Kim - The big sister of the weekend. (This was Brandi last year…) She took care of everyone, regardless...well of anything. It was crazy to me that I had to go all the way to SD to get to know someone I see fairly often. The adventure wouldn’t have been the same without her, and I am extremely excited to have her as part of my tribe. Between Moscow Mules, learning how to drive a manual, and throwing hatchets, Kim doesn’t know it yet but we have quite a few more adventures ahead of us!
Myself - Now for me.
I go on adventures often. Team RWB, AFSP, and VOAND have blessed me with opportunities I still am in shock over. After last year’s trip I was worried this one wouldn’t live up to that last experience. It did. But in different ways.
I didn’t feel like I had to be brave so much this year as I did last year. There wasn’t water involved and nothing that really caused me fear. So while I wasn’t brave in the true sense, I think myself, just as each of the other women had to, showed quite a bit of bravery in just going for it and being ourselves. I will end this the exact same way I ended my blog about last year’s trip because it rings true today.
This group of women taught me a lot of things:
As women veterans and first responders we just understand each other. We didn't talk about diagnosis or significant events that caused such diagnosis. Or any event in which others may have considered us victims. We are not victims of anything, we are survivors of everything.
We felt safe and like we had known each other for years after just one night.
It’s ok to sing very loudly on the bus. It’s ok to also fall of your seat every once in a while.
Age, background, location, marital status, branch of service, years of service can't separate family.
And this family we ride our short bus proudly, no matter how many times we run out of gas (gas gauge fault, which after 2 times we were able to correct), how many people stare at us because we are in this bus, we'd gladly get on this bus any day.