by Spotter Up
This weekend I was given a great opportunity to look around the Bull Run Warrior Retreat. The Retreat has an interesting back story. For about 7 years John Dominick and his wife Shirley have been serving wounded service members who were injured in action in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OIF). They would make the journey up to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland or Fort Belvoir and do what they could. They organized groups of people, especially young teens, to come up and pass out care packages; usually consisting of simple comfort items such as toiletries and hygiene kits, socks, bibles and during Christmas they tried to make sure the injured warriors received a Christmas gift. Summer brought welcomed cookouts.
The gifts and care packages were well-received by the lonely service members and at the same time those young teens who made the journey up there came back with a greater respect for those who served this nation. As prior service members, both John and Shirley wanted to do more to show their deep gratitude. It was after a challenge by the Pastor, Barry White of Park Valley Church in Haymarket, that the duo decided to enact a wonderful plan.
They reached out to an appreciative community to try and raise more public awareness and to enlist the public’s aid to further meet the needs of the many injured service members who have sacrificed much. The non-profit group Serve Our Willing Warriors (SOWW) was founded and the board members got to work on their venture to establish a place of respite. Not only is the Retreat for veterans of modern wars but for any veteran suffering war injuries from any previous war-including Vietnam.
From that moment Bull Run Warrior Retreat began to take root in the historic countryside of Prince William County. The ill and injured warriors would have a place to stay that was much-needed and away from the hospital environment. Though the hospitals provided care it was believed the warriors would do well if they could also recover in a place that felt like “home”.
The location of the retreat is fairly easy to find. It’s just a short drive from the heart of Washington D.C. and that makes all the world of difference I believe. Bull Run Retreat sits on the low hills of Dominion Valley and is huddled within a community of quiet homes and tall tree-lines.
The 11,000 sq. ft. red brick home was originally built in 1978 for a doctor and his wife as a place she could be cared for. Work on the home was halted after her passing and it has changed hands over the decades until it came into the hands of Serve Our Willing Warriors.
Driving up to the retreat meant following the snaky path of Waterfall Road. The road winds a bit uphill and after a few miles visitors come upon two short, stone pillars that flank the retreat’s entryway. Shortly beyond this gateway a cluster of military flags jut up from the ground on tall poles. I came in the winter, and so the hills were now a smoky color. The 37 acres were ringed with barren yet strong trees and eventually walking trails will be marked into the soil as a place the Warriors and their Families can saunter.
When I was first came up to the Retreat I remarked to Kelsy Dominick, the Project Coordinator, how large the place was. The unfinished house is the first project of another three cottages they are attempting to erect on the property. The community and local businesses have added so much to the retreat through their support: a pond with a dock, stables, an animal pen, a vegetable garden, playground, fire pit, and the list goes on. But they need much more support to make it happen.
We will have to wait until the summer of 2015 for the Retreat to be completed. Nearly a thousand people have come since its inception, and helped it rise from the retreat’s uninspired beginnings: boy scouts, girl scouts, contractors, and so many others in the community have removed rubbish, planted vegetables or slung sheetrock to give the retreat a more well-defined presence; materials, labor, cash donations, services and equipment are just some of the things they need to reach their full vision and it comes at a cost. The project is estimated to cost nearly $5 million dollars.
Kelsy gave me a tour of the cottage. We stepped down into the expansive basement and I could see equipment and supplies scrambled around the lower portion of the building. The yoga room and gym are already taking shape, as is the recreation room that will have a serving counter, pool table and television set.
We walked up the stairs into the kitchen and Kelsy pointed out to me the elevator that had been installed for the Warriors to use if they chose. Credit must go to the provider of the kitchen cabinetry. Not only is the cabinetry well-crafted, but the counter-height was lowered to accommodate the Willing Warriors. The doctor who began the project in 1978 had large windows installed into the main room and they still remain. Those who occupy this area will be able to take in a lot of light coming in through those windows and catch sunrises and sunsets if they want from their vantage point. The retreat is well-suited for what they want to accomplish.
If you’ve had a chance to look at the Serve Our Willing Warriors picture gallery you’ll notice how attractive the land is and that’s what the Warriors need; a respite that allows them to gather their thoughts and consider what they want to do next so they can heal. In all of the seasons up here it seems as if the colors of the surrounding land will never rest, and it gives the mind some ease. They need a tranquil place where their thoughts can rest for long moments.
I am very impressed by the work done by so many. In order to complete the project they need a lot of donations. If you would like to support the Serve Our Willing Warriors cause, please contact them at:
Serve Our Willing Warriors (SOWW) is a Virginia, 501(c)(3), non-profit corporation. Its mission is: To provide a peaceful retreat, encouragement and support to our willing warriors and their families during their recovery process. Your donation of any kind makes you a member of SOWW. If you have any questions regarding your online donation, please contact them directly at (866) 227-5853 or e-mail SOWW at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to come back and see what the finished project will look like before summertime. It should be amazing.
Stage 1: Renovate the existing 11,000 square foot home and begin to host Warriors + Their Families by Memorial Day 2015.
Stage 2: Build three additional homes on the property to host additional guests.
Stage 3: Add additional amenities to the 37 acre property, including gardens, walking trails, a pond, and much more