28 February 2010
To Whom It May Concern;
My name is SPC Jon French and I’m a Combat Engineer with the Michigan Army National Guard 1431st EN CO (SAPPER) Company. While taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in 2008-2009, I was injured when a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) hit the gun turret that I was gunning out of. I suffered severe internal injuries as well as partial loss and range of motion of my right arm. I spent several months at Walter Reed Army Medical Center (WRAMC) recovering both physically and mentally. While at WRAMC, my wife and I were honored to meet Jim Zumbo and Christina Holden who both sit on the board of the Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families (SFMF).
A month later we were contacted regarding setting a hunt up in Okeechobee, Florida for exotic game animals. I had several reservations about my physical limitations and its direct impact on my future of hunting again. At the time there were also many emotional issues coming to surface in my life including struggling with the need to return to the same person I was prior to deployment, emotional issues from my injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) issues. To further complicate things, all my issues were bleeding over into my marriage.
In January of 2010, my wife and I boarded a plane for Okeechobee , Florida for an experience whose life long impact we never could have anticipated. We were greeted by Jim and Christina at our flight gate and taken to Okeechobee Outfitters run by Danny SantAngelo and his outstanding staff. There is no way to fully describe the generosity and compassion shown by Danny, his family and outfitting staff. Many incredible things stemmed from all the enormous amounts of generosity, support and fun; my sleep habits, anxiety and stress levels were the best they’ve been in over 18 months. My wife and I found a missing, renewed love for the outdoors which greatly strengthened our relationship. I was also able to prove to myself that I was the same person I was pre-deployment and am able to physically continue my life’s passion for hunting. Shortly after returning home from this incredible hunt, I was taken off my high blood pressure medicine which I had been on since being at WRAMC..
There are few words to describe the impact this hunt had on my life and those around me. It gave me a renewed outlook and perspective on my life and those lives around me . I am more determined and focused by the extreme generosity and support that was shown to my wife and I.
To any combat soldier that feels lost in their life, feels detached and like a completely different person since being deployed; for those wounded combat veterans that wonder about where to start to get their lives back; for those combat/wounded soldiers just looking for some hope -I strongly encourage contacting the SFMF. I can’t say how it works, but am living testimony that it does work and will tremendously help in getting your life back on track.
I can not thank and show enough appreciation to Jim Zumbo, Christina Holden, Danny SantAngelo and his family/staff, Commander Barry Hull, Robert Hart (Hart Custom Rifles), the Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families and especially those people and organizations that have donated to such a remarkable, life changing cause. Your support has forever changed lives, will always be appreciated and will never be forgotten.
SPC Jon French
1431st En Co (SAPPER)