When DJ Youngerman, a Navy veteran who served from 2004 to 2008, returned back home after being in the military, he found it challenging to know what to do next.
I struggled for many years just trying to find that sense of purpose, Youngerman said.
He served in the medical field during his time in the Navy and eventually found his passion. Hes now studying to be in the mental health field.
However, he was missing one thing from being the military: the camaraderie with his fellow Navy members.
That camaraderie which I think most veterans.thats what they seek the most after they get out, he said.
Its that camaraderie that Navy veteran Shane Hale is helping form through the organization the Fallen Outdoors.
This organization really promotes being back to that, getting back to that, Hale said.
Hes the Arizona team lead for the organization, which spans several states and offers free trips. One of their main goals: helping veterans connect with other veterans through activities like white water rafting, boating, and camping.
Hale helps organize trips and takes veterans and active duty military members all throughout Arizona. They have gone on trips with activities like fishing, dove and duck hunting, and hiking in places in the Tucson area, Lake Pleasant, and the Colorado River.
Just like being in the military, Hale recognizes that many veterans have to move out of state when they leave the military and might not be familiar with where they moved or the people who live there.
To reach out to those active duty guys or those veterans who got out in an area that they didnt necessarily know as well and be able to take them on those trips, teach them those areas, Hale said about his goal.
Youngerman moved to Arizona about three years ago and for him, his trip to Topic with the organization, was a chance to meet Hale and other veterans.
We have more in common than we could have ever imagined and just that connection is just so valuable, Youngerman said.
But meeting fellow veterans wasnt just a casual meet up. It was also an opportunity for Youngerman to create meaningful connections with veterans, connections that are leading to a life-long brotherhood with people like Hale, who he found out lives not too far away from him.
Its almost like you can meet another veteran youve never met before and theyre just like a long-lost friend, he said.