My Warrior’s Place… After the Battlefield
A story to remind us why we celebrate the Fourth of July
RUSKIN – While we all take time to enjoy this Independence Day holiday I wanted to take some time to tell you about a place you may not know exists, My Warrior’s Place, right here in South Shore. My Warrior’s Place represents everything we celebrate during this Fourth of July.
Why is there a My Warrior’s Place?
My Warrior’s Place was founded by a mother whose son was killed in 2009 serving his country in Afghanistan – just five weeks into his first deployment. Corey Kowall was only 20. I am not a parent so I cannot imagine the depth of grief one feels when losing a child, but meeting this mother and seeing what she and countless volunteers have created is the type of meeting that restores one’s faith in all humanity and makes you reflect on this day’s true meaning.
When Kelly Kowall lost her son in 2009 she joined TAPS, the Tragedy Assistance Program for survivors. In essence, it’s a group that helps friends and families understand and work through the grief of losing someone in active duty. While participating, Kelly began to question what types of services were available to active duty veterans who return. How do they get to work through what they’ve just been through?
“When you’re on active duty,” Kelly says, “you don’t have the luxury to grieve. Your life depends on you staying focused, so when comrades are killed you must move forward. Many active duty members simply put their emotions in a bottle, as one would put a genie in a bottle. Unfortunately, when they return from duty the genie may still be in the bottle, but has to come out,” Kelly explains.
What Kelly discovered was there weren’t many programs for returning active duty individuals to work through the emotional injuries so she decided to do something about it.
Kelly says it best herself on the My Warrior’s Place website: “To honor my son and the Army values that he stood for Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage, I was compelled to find a way to assist those who were mentally and emotionally affected by some of the complex grief issues that arise when the one who died served in the military. Thus, My Warrior’s Place, Inc. ( 501(c)3) was founded in his memory.
Photo: Kelly Kowall, Founder of My Warrior’s Place
A look at My Warrior’s Place
Set on two acres, directly on the Little Manatee River in Ruskin, the My Warrior’s Place retreat started its life in 2012 as an overgrown property with broken down trailers, rodent infestations and piles and piles of trash – until Kelly and countless volunteers and sponsors fixed all that.
Today, My Warrior’s Place is a beautiful retreat center for veterans, military service members, First Responders, and Gold, Blue and Silver Star families. It’s a complex of bungalows, renovated trailers and tiny houses that people can rent both short and long term. Guests can also visit for the day simply to use the retreat’s amenities: kayaks, boats, a fishing pier, patios, and grills.
My Warrior’s Place Special Programs
My Warrior’s Place also offers various programs intended to help these individuals cope and heal from all they’ve experienced.
- Everyday Heroes USA
- FAVE Boating Expeditions
- C.O.D.E. Fitness
- Project Corregidor Grief & Peer Mentoring
For more information on these programs please visit MY WARRIOR’S PLACE WEBSITE.
Photo: Renovated trailers, tiny houses, and a memorial garden with dog tags from visitors.
All Volunteer Organization
When I sat down with Kelly yesterday to learn more about My Warrior’s Place at least three or four cars drove in. Many simply see the My Warrior’s Place sign posted on Shell Point Road and come out of curiosity, others have received pamphlets. One young man, an active duty Air Force officer, stopped in to see what the place was about. He also asked if they needed volunteers and if children could volunteer.
This is how Kelly responded, “Yes! Think of owning a home. Everything you have to do to maintain a home has to happen here, but tenfold. Lawn maintenance alone is a huge job. There are no paid employees at My Warrior’s Place. If it happens, it’s through volunteers. Children are certainly welcome, too. They’re low to the ground so picking weeds is a good job,” Kelly says.
Kelly guesstimates she alone puts in 80 hours many weeks. “I am the gardener, the website manager, the fund raiser, the handy-man and the janitor – all in one day,” she explains.
If you’ve never visited My Warrior’s Place I encourage you to do so. If you’re looking for volunteer opportunities there is a chance to do everything from property maintenance to offering tours to helping with administrative tasks. At this time, tree trimming and removal is an especially big need. Young people can even earn scholarship hours for Bright Futures grants. If you’re not able to volunteer there is always the opportunity to donate.
Happy Fourth of July, South Shore
I wish everyone a safe holiday and encourage you to take a minute or two to reflect on just how lucky we are in America – and why we’re so lucky. Thank you to My Warrior’s Place for providing such an incredible retreat and thank you to all who serve our country.
In memory of SPC Corey Kowall.
Location / Contact:
101 22nd Street NW, Ruskin, Florida 33570, (813) 321-0880
Please visit their website for more information on this incredible organization and its programs and to learn how you can volunteer and donate. http://www.mywarriorsplace.org/