John Costanza of Spirit Reins talks about outdoor adventures that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can have at the Spirit Reins farm in Harrisonburg. Listening are members of the Miss-Lou PTSD Retreat Team, Chris Jones, from left, Joel Willman, Jimmy Allgood, Costanza, Joel Connick and Richard Brewer.
John Costanza of Spirit Reins talks about outdoor adventures that veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder can have at the Spirit Reins farm in Harrisonburg. Listening are members of the Miss-Lou PTSD Retreat Team, Chris Jones, from left, Joel Willman, Jimmy Allgood, Costanza, Joel Connick and Richard Brewer.

Redneck Adventures creates team to assist Vets with PTSD

Published 12:02am Sunday, October 27, 2013

NATCHEZ — Eighteen post-traumatic stress disorder soldiers commit suicide each day, and the numbers aren’t dwindling.

It is hard for most people to understand exactly what a person with PTSD goes through on a regular basis.

Jimmy Allgood and Mark LaFrancis may not be personally dealing with the disorder, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to help the cause.

Allgood met Richard Brewer, owner of One Warrior One, an organization meant to help PTSD and disabled soldiers, on a radio show.

Brewer suffers from PTSD after surviving from a suicide truck bomb attack on the American Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon where he was stationed in 1983.

His fight with PTSD moved Allgood as he joined forces with One Warrior One with his organization called Redneck Adventures.

“(Brewer) has two Purple Hearts for doing so, but a special part in my heart from getting to know him,” Allgood said.

LaFrancis, who is also a veteran, got his organization — called Home with Heroes Foundation — involved as well.

The three organizations were met by NASCAR driver and veteran Joel Willman of Joel Willman Racing, who decided to help the cause.

Together, the four groups have decided they will take PTSD soldiers on Redneck Retreats that involves several therapeutic outdoors activities to help soldiers deal with their disorder.

LaFrancis said everyone was on board to the idea of the retreat and all it would entail.

“They thought it was just absolutely fabulous,” he said. “For two years, we have been looking for organizations with which to partner, and we found them and they found us. We invited them to come to experience the outdoor locations that we would provide to PTSD soldiers that would challenge them and do some bonding and begin to heal.”

The four organizations went to Lake Concordia, including One Warrior One members and PTSD veterans Jane Case and Joel Connick, to test out some of the activities that would be used in the Redneck Retreats.

Brewer said they pooled together ideas of therapeutic, yet fun ways to help soldiers by researching what worked for soldiers in the past.

“One thing I found that works for soldiers with PTSD was outdoors, pushing themselves mentally and physically again like they did in the service,” Brewer said. “We wanted something a little left of crazy because that’s what warriors want. They want things that’ll make them feel how they felt prior to their injuries.”

Allgood said the men and women got to experience a taste of Redneck Adventures along the way.

“We did everything in this Redneck Retreat that we plan to do moving forward with the retreats,” Allgood said. ‘We bow fished at night, we zip lined and we had many different outings.”

LaFrancis said it was great to add a piece of what makes the Miss-Lou area unique to the retreat.

“The additional spice is the Redneck style retreats, and we’re going to make sure we’ll have some redneck flavor,” LaFrancis said. “After all, this is the Redneck Adventures’ home.”

One of the more relaxing therapeutic activities came in their trip to Harrisonburg, Allgood said.

“We did hippotherapy with horses,” Allgood said. “The movements of the horse help cause soothing environments that help with speech and muscular movements and help put people back on track to a great life.”

Brewer said the retreat was a success in more ways than just laying the groundwork for the activities they will be planning for future trips.

But the groups also advertised their purpose to the public at the Great Mississippi River Balloon Race last week, and Brewer said that was important because it will take more than just the organizations to host retreats in the Miss-Lou.

“The success of these retreats aren’t depended on us,” he said. “But the community of the Miss-Lou and the support they’re going to give us.”

Brewer said they hope to start their first official Redneck Retreat by May of 2014.