Simons said that even if he had not gotten involved with the HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation as a volunteer, just attending the 2017 Weekend to Remember event changed his life. “When I first got involved, I had just gotten out of the Army and I was at a huge point of transition,” he said. “I felt like a big piece of who I was, was gone. I was in the military for so long that I almost had to remember what my own first name was because I hadn’t gone by it in so many years.” At that point, Simons was struggling. He couldn’t find work and he was depressed, he said. “The military is really, really good at training you to do your job and sustaining that knowledge while you’re in, but they’re really bad about getting you out the correct way. They kind of just dump you out so you’re left in this cloud of dust where you don’t know what to do, where to go, or how to fit in.” At Weekend to Remember, Simons said, he was surrounded by a group of brothers. “They all speak the same language I do, and they all had the same experiences I had had,” he said. “They went through the same struggles that I was going through. There were Vietnam vets all the way through men who had just gotten out. We all identified with each other. When I arrived, I didn’t know any of them. When I left, I had 49 best friends, and I still keep in touch with most of them.” HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation’s mission statement is “No Soldier, Veteran, or Warrior will be left behind. Not on our watch.” It’s a mission that SFC Dana Bowman and his army of warriors takes very seriously as they change the trajectory of the lives of the veterans who have helped protect our freedoms.
Simons was having a hard time transitioning to civilian life, and he invited Simons to a HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation event. “I told him I’d heard of him and that I knew he had parachuted into the Military Ball the November before and that he did some hog hunts,” Simons said. “I told him I didn’t know anything more about him than that, but that I was interested.” Simons and Bowman talked for 2-1/2 hours. A few weeks later, Simons went on a hog hunt with Bowman and the HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation, and in 2017 he was one of the 50 warriors who attended that year’s Weekend to Remember event. “It was unlike anything I had even done,” Simons said. “It’s an amazing program. I told Dana he’s changing lives in a positive way and I wanted to be a part of it. I told him I would volunteer, I would serve chow, hand out coffee, drive the bus … I didn’t care, I just wanted to help.” The following year, at the 2018 Weekend to Remember, Simons volunteered. He manned the registration table, drove the bus, served chow and helped with logistics. Gradually he and Bowman became friends, and he
started helping Bowman with other projects and events. “After the 2018 event, Dana asked me if I would be on the Advisory Board,” Simons said. “I told him I would be honored.” The following year, Simons took on more responsibility at the Weekend to Remember. “Dana and I ran the 2019 event together,” he said. “I ended up co-speaking at the Gala with him and kind of co-hosting it. After that, he asked me to be on the Board of Directors, and I’ve been there ever since.”
Travis Simons U.S. Army – Staff Sergeant – Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran
Fall 2020 • NBS OUTDOOR • 55
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