"No soldier, no soldier's family should feel that they are alone in this," - CSLEA Member & DOJ Special Agent Michelle Gregory
California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) member Michelle Gregory never saw herself as an event planner, let alone a fundraiser, but she is at it again, planning and preparing for the 2nd Annual Combat Veterans Waterfowl Association (CVWA) Fundraiser Dinner. What is that, you ask?
"It is an enjoyable night out and helps to support our combat vets by giving them an activity and a group to help them heal from PTSD, reintegration and other combat related issues," said Gregory. "My husband, he himself a combat vet, and I identified a unique way to address these needs through waterfowl hunting."
How does waterfowl hunting help combat veterans live a rich and fulfilling life after experiences that have left them injured, stressed, isolated or unable to cope? "We create a peer to peer environment where combat veterans can share their experiences with fellow veterans," said Gregory. "People always ask, why waterfowl hunting? I explain combat soldiers are a unique and proud group, not always ready to seek help. Put four combat vets out in a blind together all day and at some point they start talking, about everything and anything. We also give them the skills to continue the sport of waterfowl hunting on their own, creating an outlet for those times when they need one. The combat veterans who come out of this will tell you it's therapeutic. "
Waterfowl hunting puts these veterans in a quiet field before the sun rises. They take in all the relaxation the serene atmosphere of dawn has to offer and share the day together. "One of our first veterans to come out with us on a hunt is a Vietnam Vet," said Gregory. "He had never talked about his experiences until he came out with us. Thirty-four years of not talking about his experiences. You can't get him to stop talking now. And, he's now one of our facilitators."
Gregory's full time job is that of a California Department of Justice special agent. She spends her personal time as chief financial officer and media specialist for the Combat Veterans Waterfowl Association.
"It’s so important for combat veterans to have a support system and not feel like a social oddity," said Gregory, who speaks from experience. "My husband’s last deployment to Afghanistan was in 2008. He returned almost 18-months later in August 2009 a very different person. I often tell people that it was harder adjusting to him coming home than it was when he left. It was a huge adjustment for the entire family."
As some combat veterans do, Derek Gregory returned home suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and other physical injuries. "He was not the same person who left 18-months before. He came back different, forever changed, " said Gregory.
"Michelle Gregory and her husband, Derek, are heroes helping heroes," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "No one puts more on the line everyday than our combat soldiers. Their sacrifices and their families' sacrifices are sometimes, lifelong. These are two very special people helping to make a difference."
"I do this because I know that if we can help a combat veteran, we are also helping their family," said Gregory. "I am proud of my husband and his service and I am fiercely protective of my family. No one, the soldier or family, should feel that they are alone in this."
The Gregory's CVWA is a non-profit association in need of funds to support the free hunting and equipment benefitting combat veterans. On Saturday, October 11, 2014, CVWA is hosting a fundraiser dinner at the VFW Hall, Post 8762 in West Sacramento. The Gregory's invite you to support combat veterans by attending this event which features a no-host bar, dinner, raffle, and live auction.
Last year, more than 150 attended and helped CVWA raise $20,000.