May 16, 2012
By Sgt. Mark Cloutier
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Disabled combat veteran Bill Campbell and his wife, Domenica, opened their 14-acre farm in December, free to all veterans and their families.
Nestled into the thick, green Capitol Forest, just off State Road 8 about 30 miles south of Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., is the peaceful respite known to many as Wounded Warrior Ranch.
Bill said the ranch is a place where veterans and their families can simply drop in for a time of peace and solitude and drop out of life’s rat race at the same time — 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 to do, at the Wounded Warrior Ranch, or WWR. Veterans and their families can choose from things like hiking, boating, horseback riding, and horseshoes, or they can relax in the newly constructed dayroom, watch television, or read a book. Some choose to work in the garden or have a picnic on the shore of the 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 share knowledge. There are also several arenas and paddocks in which guests may ride one of the Campbells’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, himself a former Army National Guard Soldier and disabled vet, suffers from post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury and seizures, all sustained from 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 homemaker/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 dealing with the trials and tribulations of military family life. She has a whole other point of reference to share when times are appropriate.
The WWR is a non-profit establishment. The Campbells pay out of pocket toward its overall operation, but it is important to Bill and Domenica to note that the continued growth and commitment that the WWR has to all veterans would be greatly hampered without the volunteer funds, which come from those personally motivated to give.
Volunteer time and work are both welcomed and appreciated at the ranch. There is a ‘to do’ list as well as a ‘wish list’ to be found at the website, www.woundedwarriorranch.org, for all who are interested.
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,” Domenica said. “It’s a place where you are welcome, understood and honored.”
“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.”