Lone Star Warriors Outdoors
By Greg McCain
Almost all combat veterans experience PTSD to some degree.
The stress of combat exerts its influence over some soldiers for weeks and months. For others, PT (post traumatic stress disorder) is a daily plague that hangs over their lives for years. It surfaces in various ways, and unfortunately leads to suicidal tendencies for a percentage of these warriors.
Chris “Sarge” Gill has lived the extremes associated with PTSD.
“I wanted to die,” Chris said bluntly about the effects of his tour of Afghanistan.
He was classified as 100 percent disabled by the military after his tour ended. Upon his retirement in 2011, Chris went on a hunt with other combat veterans. The hunt proved to be a balm that led him down the slow road to healing.
Chris recognized the significance of that hunt, the impact that the opportunity had on him. He quickly sought to help other combat injured veterans in a similar way. The result of his efforts was the formation of Lone Star Warriors Outdoors (LSWO), an organization that provides outdoor opportunities and more for veterans experiencing combat-related stress issues.
“I retired and in the meantime, I went on a hunt with a bunch of other veterans and noticed how I was able to heal with the other veterans,” Chris said. “I was in the reserves so I didn’t deploy with anyone that I knew. I had nobody to talk to. You can’t tell your wife what you do in combat. They don’t understand it.
“So I formed this organization, and we take combat injured vets from Afghanistan and Iraq – unfortunately that’s all we can take right now because I don’t have the funds to include Vietnam (veterans) right now. Believe me, I would love to.”
Through the years, the group has taken small groups on hunting and also on saltwater fishing excursions. The offshore fishing component of the program has faded away, but Chris continues to arrange hunts for combat injured veterans. Crappie-fishing trips are part of the organization’s future plans.
“It’s mainly whitetail hunting right now,” Chris said. “We do a lot on high-fence ranches. We have the opportunity to gun hunt in Texas Oct. 1 through Feb. 28. We do an axis hunt in the summer. We bring three guys in for that. There is a good bit of (hunting for) exotics involved.
“The December hunts are when we bring in guys from across the country. We raise money to bring them in. Mostly we are serving Texas guys, but for these December hunts, we bring them in from all over. I think we’ve pretty much covered every state since 2011.”
Ultimately, however, the purpose of LSWO is not just an outdoors experience. Chris said the true healing comes through the connections the participants make with like-minded veterans experiencing the same types of problems.
“The primary goal is not for them to hunt,” he said. “The primary goal is for them to talk, sit around a campfire and connect.
“We usually bring in three to five people. If two guys don’t get along, there are others to talk to. They bond like people do in the military. That’s the whole point of this organization.”
Chris will add regular crappie trips to the program soon. An avid crappie fisherman, Chris started a YouTube channel (Asleep at the Reel) last year, and his connections in the fishing industry will allow another outlet for the warriors whom his organization serves.
Through the years, Lone Star Warriors Outdoors has reached almost 1,000 injured veterans, normally about 90-100 people per year. 2020 has been the exception due to covid concerns, but Chris said he expects the numbers to revert to normal in years ahead.
For now, Chris holds the title of founder/CEO of the organization, and he performs many tasks as the only full-time employee. Fundraising is a main consideration for him.
“I have the title, but you name it and I do it,” Chris said.
The group seeks both individual and corporate donations. LSWO also served as the beneficiary of the recent ACC Crappie Stix Owners Tournament on Lake Fork in Texas. A significant portion of each entry fee in the tournament went directly to the group.
“I’ve got to thank Andy for putting me on the pro staff and for doing this tournament,” Chris said.
Individuals can donate online with a link available on LSWO’s website (www.LoneStarWarriorsOutdoors.org). People who wish to write a check can also find the mailing address on the website.
For corporate donations – Academy Sports + Outdoors provided gift cards in recent weeks – Chris said to contact him (903.253.5604 or [email protected]).
Chris also generates and donates some funds through his YouTube channel.
“We’re happy to take donations from individuals and from the corporate world,” Chris said. “Because we are a 501c3, all donations are tax deductible.”
The need for help is real, even for those veterans who have been away from combat regions for years.
“We want to help,” Chris said, “to give them experiences where they can not only enjoy the outdoors but also connect with other veterans.”