Wounded warrior opens heart, family ranch to fellow vets

Story by Sgt. Mark Cloutier, 5th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Nestled into the lush, green Capitol Forest, just off State Road 8 about 30 miles south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, is the peaceful respite known as Wounded Warrior Ranch.

Army National Guard veteran Bill Campbell and his wife, Domenica, opened their 14-acre farm, free of charge, to all military veterans and their families.

Bill said the ranch is a place where veterans and their families can simply drop in for a little peace and solitude and drop out of life’s rat race – a place where regimentation and schedules are checked at the door.

“Our mission is to honor and serve our nation’s veterans and their families with gratitude and appreciation through personal experience,” Domenica said. “We want people to rest and to relax and to feel as though they are at home when they’re here.”

There is plenty to do, or not do, at the WWR. Veterans and their families can choose from activities like hiking, boating, horseback riding and horseshoes, or they can relax, watch television or read a book in the newly constructed dayroom. Some choose to work in the garden or have a picnic on the shore of Oxbow Pond.

For those who choose to take advantage of the miles of riding trails, Domenica has many years of equestrian experience from which to draw on, and she freely shares her knowledge with guests. There are also several arenas and paddocks in which guests may ride one of the Campbell’s four horses and ponies.

“We want to remain open to whatever our guests come up with,” Domenica said. “The whole point is for them to find peace and to let go of stress.”

Bill, a disabled vet, suffers from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and seizures, all sustained during his 2004 deployment to Iraq with the 81st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Calvary Division. Having “been there and done that,” Bill said it’s easier for him to understand what other vets have gone through, and are still going through; he understands the process of mental and emotional healing from the scars of war.

As the wife of a wounded warrior and mother of two (to include a son who serves as a British Royal Marine Commando), Domenica has earned her stripes by enduring the trials and tribulations of military family life. She shares her unique perspective with visitors when opportunities present themselves.

WWR is a place where no one will feel burdened by any set expectations. “We are here to provide a place to be among peers. “It’s a place where you are welcome, understood and honored,” Domenica said.

“Sometimes you just need a reason to get out of the house,” Bill said. “And what makes Wounded Warrior Ranch different from other veteran-based programs is that you don’t have to be here at a certain time, or complete a set of tasks, and you’re not limited by a predetermined agenda.”

The WWR is a non-profit establishment, Bill said, so volunteer funds, time and work are all welcomed and appreciated. For more information about the ranch, visit http://www.woundedwarriorranch.org/.