Rogue Corps Gets Vets Out of Hospital, Back in the Field Doing What They Want

October 12, 2012

By Will Grant

With the de-escalation of the war in Afghanistan the challenge of helping combat-wounded veterans regain their confidence and capability is perhaps more important than ever. One way to facilitate the change to civilian life, it turns out, is to allow those veterans to do what they want most. Which is usually what they were doing before they were injured.

In Southern California, three veterans have taken a field-oriented approach to helping combat-wounded vets regain their pre-injury confidence. Earlier this year, veterans Mark Hupp, David Lyon, and Al Clark founded Rogue Corps, a non-profit organization that takes wounded veterans out of the hospital and into the field for what Rogue Corps calls therapeutic adventure.

“We’re helping these guys to reclaim their independence,” says David Lyon, a double amputee who served five combat deployments. “We go by big-boy rules; we treat them like the grown men they are.”

The transition from an able-bodied serviceman to a hospital-bed patient can sap the confidence and morale from a person. But when Rogue Corps takes veterans fishing, hunting, shooting, or mountain biking there’s a part of each man restored by the activity. Getting these men’s boots back on the ground—even if it’s a boot on a prosthetic leg or the wheels of a wheelchair—does more than just give them fresh air.

“We’ll have one of these guy’s wife call us, and thank us and say she hasn’t seen her husband in three years,” says Lyon.

The easiest and most common way Rogue Corps gets wounded vets into the field is through fishing. Hupp, who generally leads the sporting adventures, takes guys out twice a week. Last week, they were lobster fishing off the coast of San Diego.

“This is why we have prosthetic limbs,” said Andrew Bottrell to Shooting Illustrated’s  Adam Heggenstaller during a shoot several weeks ago . “They let us do the things we were born to do.”

Obviously, taking amputees on open water—or to a shooting range, a prairie dog town or hunting doves and quail—requires not only specialized equipment, but the right kind of man. To that, Rogue Corps selects individuals who are mentally suited to the activity. Whatever the physical condition of the men, the Corps can usually handle it.

“We tell them, don’t even worry about it,” says Lyon. “We can take a triple amputee with two fingers on his hand and give him a job on the boat.”

But the hospital environment does usually not help the mental preparedness for such outings. In a hospital, the men spend all day telling doctors what’s wrong them and what they can’t do—not what they can do. Rogue Corps operates on the antithesis of that attitude.

“A lot of the guys are held back by the recovery process,” says Hupp. “They hear all the time how they have to be careful and take it slow.”

Rogue Corps wants to help the men recover their former capabilities—not remain a patient in bed.

“You’ve got some 20-year-old dude who can’t even buy a beer,” says Lyon, “we want to help him figure out his life.”

And what Rogue Corps can’t provide, the network surrounding the Corps can usually help. Whether it be a college education or an activity the organization hasn’t tried, Lyon, Hupp, and Clark put their heads together to find a way to make it happen. Often the way it happens is by reaching outside their immediate resources to utilize other resources. The network of people is as important as the motivation behind the Corps’s founders.

The Corps is in the process of planning a shoot with Sig Sauer for next spring. They’re planning prairie dog hunts, dove hunts, and more fishing trips for this fall. At less than year old, the organization is confronting their mission with the same determination and drive that lead them through their military careers.

And the most pressing need at the moment is a new boat. Or the means to retrofit their current 18-foot, center-console fishing boat to better accommodate their needs.

“With two wheelchairs and me and Mark in there,” says Lyon, “it’s pretty crowded.”

Donations, of course, are always appreciated. But donations in the form of equipment and gear are far more appreciated than a check. After all, as Lyon and Hupp say, they’re not marketing experts–they’re former soldiers.

You can get in touch with Rogue Corps through their FaceBook page or email David Lyon HERE.

Images courtesy of Rogue Corps


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