By: Jennifer Britt
The Parsons Advocate
For many having a life of peace and serenity is something taken for granted on any given day, but there are many more who struggle just to get through the day without experiencing some sort of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to serving in the military. A group of four, Major General Randall “Randy” West and his wife Robin, along with Mrs. West’s brother and his wife started a 354-acre retreat camp called Patriots 4 (P4) in 2013 to help veterans and their families deal with every day struggles and get some well-deserved rest and relaxation while enjoying some hunting and fishing.
West said, “When we first founded this it was myself, my wife, her brother who was an Air Force vet, and his wife. Hence the name Patriots 4. He (the brother) came down and helped us put the store building in, the first cabins, and helped make arrangements with the man that was going to build the rest of the cabins.
When we first started out, we wanted to pick the best place. We wanted good hunting, good fishing, good patriotic community to be a part of, and if possible, to be co-located with a national forest that would help us with game management. We wanted to get to the point and have gotten to that point where a wounded veteran comes and stays, they are going to leave with a deer or turkey. And is probably going to catch a mess of fish if they want to fish.
We started out by picking 25 places on the web. Then the four of us sat down and picked the seven that we thought would be the best. We visited all seven of those in four states and chose this one. We started with 25, then seven, and then Parsons won out. It has got everything we need with good hunting woods, places to fish, and a great community. Just driving through Parsons and looking at the memorial you know that this a patriotic community.
Everyone that we have met here has been good to us, has embraced us, and a lot of them have helped us build, clear, and this (pavilion) was all built with donated labor and material.”
P4 is totally ran by donations and sponsorships. West said, “Every penny we raise goes towards helping the wounded veterans and their family. When people come here, we talk to them, and we learn about things that they need that nobody is helping them with.”
According to P4’s webpage at www.Patroitsfour.org the mission of P4 is to “One: To honor our nation’s wounded veterans (and their families) who have sacrificed so much in the name of freedom.
Two: To provide a place for mobility impaired wounded veterans to continue to enjoy the great outdoors regardless of disability. This is accomplished through adaptive equipment and guides/callers.
Three: To provide an atmosphere for sharing and encouraging that may assist in opening doors to help wounded veterans in identifying resources to navigate other challenging issues with which they may be faced. These challenges may include receiving assistance in building wheel chair ramps, finding a handicapped accessible vehicle, doing needed repairs in the home, identifying VA resources, VA benefits applications, finding professional counseling, etc.
Four: To provide an annual scholarship to help a son or daughter of a wounded vet attend college or pursue a trade school education.”
The camp is located in St. George West Virginia, north of Monongahela National Forest and just 180 miles outside Washington DC, P4’s 1/2 mile on the Cheat river, and 1/2 mile on Clover Run trout stream.
The retreat is organized and ran by West and four other board members with the help from Tommy White, neighboring Clover Run property owner Chuck Stalnaker and locals Wendell Cantrell, Laura Olsen and daughter Shayla Mason as well the National Forest. West said, “We do not have any paid staff. We do not have any paid board members. Everyone is a volunteer.”
West said, “We want to have a place where wounded veterans can come to hunt and fish, float the river or just relax and hike the trails in the mountains or up in the hollows.” Any fishing or hunting licenses required is provided free of charge. Any citation fish caught can be mounted for the guest free of charge as well.
Currently the camp includes four cabins, Semper Fi (in honor of the Marines), Hooah (in honor of the Army), Anchors Away (in honor of the Navy), and Wild Blue Yonder (in honor of the Air Force). There is also a cabin for rent to the public, Wild & Wonderful (in honor of WV). West said, “We are not going to stop with the four cabins. Next Saturday we have a working party coming over and out past the Army cabin we are going to clearing a rectangle inside that nice, wooded lot there that Mr. Stalnaker was kind enough to donate to us. We are going to be putting a little chapel in there.”
West said, “We make those cabins available for any wounded veteran that would like to come here two times a year and stay three days and two nights. And it is free. We do not get them here, but once you get here it should not cost you a thing. The lodging is free. We will put food in the freezer. Sometimes we have Wendell’s food truck and sometimes we will have barbecue’s down here at the pavilion or up at the cabins. It is our way of thanking you for what you have done, for your patriotism, and your sacrifices for your service.”
The one room chapel will be a place the veterans can go and meditate or pray. The chapel will have four stained-glass windows representing each branch of service, and where the preacher would normally stand there will be a larger stained-glass window with a Godly scene. West said, “We thought there might be some veterans that come in with families that might want to renew their wedding vows. We have baptized 24 people here in the river and it would a little place where we could do a service before the baptism. “
West also has plans to open a road to the top of the mountain with a solar powered rustic remote cabin that disabled veterans can be transported up to the day before, stay the night and be able to wheel their chairs or walk right out the door to do some hunting. The plan is to clear a couple of acres and plant some apple trees and persimmons that would attract wild life as well as some corn and soy beans.
The big project in the works after building the couple of remote cabins is to build a lodge for the camp ground. West said, “The lodge will be in the middle of the cabins and look just like the cabins except it will be about three times as big. It will have four rooms in it named like the cabins and a room for whatever board member is hosting the event. There will also be a couple of other rooms, one for ladies and one for men. The ladies’ room will sleep about 15 and the men’s room will sleep about 30.” The lodge will be totally enclosed with air conditioning and heating. There will be a long table in the middle to host large numbers of dinner guests.
In their most recent event vets were welcomed for a weekend called “Vets with Guitars.” The guest enjoyed lessons on how to use the guitar and music as a way of soothing down any PTSD or pain they may be experiencing. West started by saying, “I would like to do is thank all of you for you service to our nation, our families, our freedom, and the calls of freedom in not just in America but throughout the world. A lot of you have gone willing into harm’s way to preserve a way a life that not only we hold dear, but we wanted other people in the world to benefit from it as well. So, from the bottom of my heart let me thank you for your service to our country and the calls of freedom.”
The veterans played a song called “America the Beautiful, Blessed is the nation who God is the Lord – Psalm 33:12 NIV” they learned with their leader, Kyle Stevens from Mannington and during the second verse West recited a poem about a single father losing his only son during the war. The father had lost his faith in God after losing his son, but the son appears to him and reminded him that the faith instilled in him by his father is what kept him going during the war. The father regained his faith and lived the remainder of his life knowing he would see his son again.
The group for the weekend also enjoyed other fun activities such as an axe throwing contest.
Patriots 4 is ran solely off of donations and sponsorships and if anyone would like to donate the can do so through two ways. One is through the website located at www.Patriotsfour.org. and the other is by sending a check or money order to Patriots 4, c/o MGen Randy West, 10500 Hume Road, Marshall, VA, 20115. West can be reached by email at email@example.com or by calling (202) 549-6828.