Arkansas Nonprofit Promotes Camaraderie among Veterans

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — On Feb. 8, General William Darby will turn 106.

Born in Fort Smith in 1911, William Orlando Darby formed the first Army Ranger battalion during World War II. Known as “Darby’s Rangers,” it would evolve into the modern special forces group of U.S. Army Rangers.

Darby’s Warrior Support is a Searcy-based, nonprofit group dedicated to bringing veterans out of isolation as a form of therapy and show of camaraderie. Formerly called “Operation Wounded Warrior Support,” DWS – renamed in November 2015 to honor Darby and modeled after the Rangers’ credo, “Never shall I fail my comrades” – provides veterans an all-inclusive weekend of Arkansas duck hunting, the Southwest Times Record reported.

“In 2001, right after 9/11, I was deployed to Afghanistan,” said Col. Shawn Daniel, CEO of DWS and an Army Ranger. “After our deployment, me and a few of my buddies made a cannonball run to Arkansas, and we spent the weekend.”

Even as they celebrated a successful weekend of waterfowling, they mourned the absence of wounded comrades-in-arms who couldn’t make the trip. DWS was formed, and Daniel, along with other active-duty soldiers and veterans, made it a mission to help soldiers who might feel isolated as they adjust to civilian life.

“Duck hunting is a very social sport,” said Daniel. “Sitting in the reeds, putting out decoys … it does a lot to help.”

A 2013 statistic from the Department of Veterans Affairs puts suicide rates among veterans at roughly 22 per day. Isolation has been attributed as one of the leading causes, along with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But therapy is not the only role that DWS plays. It also provides scholarships and educational opportunities for severely disabled and permanently disabled veterans seeking college degrees, another way to help their transition back into civilian life.

“They can become one of two things when they are suddenly and severely handicapped,” Daniel said of soldiers wounded in combat. “Some become overachievers, and others use their injuries as an opportunity to coast along.”
Their first scholarship recipient was Sgt. Marshall Kennedy, a U.S. Marines double amputee who went on to attend the University of Arkansas for a teaching degree.

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