A dozen U.S. Capitol Police officers recently visited Patriot Point for a weekend retreat.
The group arrived on Saturday morning, toured the property, then settled in for a few games of cornhole. About half the group went fishing that afternoon, followed by a dinner of shrimp and chicken with a nighttime bonfire on the beach.
“It was very relaxing,” Officer Tommy DeMar said. “Everyone was excited to get away. We’ve been working 16-hour days for about four months. It was great to talk amongst ourselves in a different environment other than work. It was great to get away. The place is amazing.”
Supporters of Patriot Point organized a recent weekend retreat for eight veterans.
“I put the group together as a mixture of different veteran service organizations that I belong to or participate in events with – the Marine Corps League, Wounded Warrior Project and Delaware Chapter of Veterans,” said John Rego, a U.S. Army veteran who was an Airborne Ranger and served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“I had never met most of the guys before. I only knew two of them and only one had been to Patriot Point previously.”
The retreat was sponsored by Patriot Point supporter Bob Basarab of Bel Air Road Supply. Carl Peterson of Nicolock brought a 40-foot boat to take the group out for a day of fishing. Bel Air Road Supply and Nicolock have continually supported Patriot Point, contributing to recent renovations.
As Rego has seen in previous visits to Patriot Point, it did not take long for the group to mesh.
“The first night is always interesting to watch – some guys are a little standoffish and you can tell they have things they are dealing with or don’t know what to expect or how the weekend will pan out,” Rego said.
“But it takes less than 24 hours for that to change. By the second night, everyone is joking with each other, sitting next to someone new, having conversations. It doesn’t matter who you were or where you are from. Slowly but surely you can see them drop their guard as time goes on. The esprit de corps comes out. It makes everybody feel like they’re in the right place.”
One of the veterans was into archery and brought along his bow and arrows and the group practiced its target shooting. Another veteran was into treasure hunting and brought a metal detector – little did the group know it would discover several different old coins while searching along the dune near the beach. Rego sent the coins to a friend who is an archaeologist.
“Stuff like that is so cool,” Rego said. “To make friends like this and have shared experiences.”
On Saturday, Peterson took most of the group out on the water for a splendid day of fishing, while Basarab stayed back at Patriot Point and chatted with one of the veterans who chose to stay on land.
“He served in Iraq and was injured there,” Basarab said. “We hung out all day and got to know each other. Sometimes that means just as much, if not more than, the other stuff. I don’t think he has a lot of people to talk to. He poured it all out. It gave us a little more understanding of what he needed from the weekend.”
After those who went fishing returned, the group relaxed on the patio outside the barn and were entertained by the band Just a Bit Outside.
“It was an awesome weekend,” Basarab said. “I say this every time I visit Patriot Point, but it really was the best weekend!”
The Fort Meade Better Opportunities for Single Service-Members recently brought 21 service members to Patriot Point for a weekend retreat.
U.S. Navy Petty Officer Second-Class Juan Cuen, who is president of the Fort Meade BOSS program, had visited Patriot Point earlier this spring on a retreat organized by USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. Cuen saw the impact that Patriot Point made and inquired about bringing a group of service members from Fort Meade.
“It’s awesome and great to see people engage and disconnect from the world and get to know other individuals,” Cuen said. “I feel extremely blessed to come across a sanctuary where I can unwind and connect with people and discuss struggles in life and how to overcome them.”
While Mother Nature did not cooperate during the weekend, as it rained often, the group participated in several indoor activities, including a yoga class and tarot card readings. They also enjoyed a barbecue and played board games before getting to hit the water and go kayaking on Sunday.
“Patriot Point offers everything a person needs to unplug and relax, from kayaking to hiking,” said U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Michele Scates. “The two main buildings are awesome with full kitchen and one big table where your group of 20-plus can eat together and connect over a meal. I will come back the first chance I get!”
“It allowed me to unwind and disconnect from the busy world,” said U.S. Navy Petty Officer Third-Class James Sumrall. “Military life can be very stressful and exhausting, so to have a few days away from it all was absolutely perfect. The staff also had a lot of great life advice to give which has helped me even after returning home.”
Leashes of Valor recently brought four veterans to Patriot Point, where they spent 10 days training with their new service dogs. The nonprofit provides highly-trained service dogs at no cost to post-9/11 veterans who need them due to the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury or Military Sexual Trauma.
“Our 20-acre farm in Virginia can currently accommodate just one veteran and their canine at a time,” Leashes of Valor founder Jason Haag said. “Patriot Point gives us the opportunity to quadruple the number of veterans we can serve at once. It really allows us to increase our reach.”
The service members at the May training came from Michigan, Florida, Texas and Virginia. At Patriot Point, they learned how to live and work with their new service dogs at home and in public.
“One of the guys had not left his house in 10 years,” Haag said. “To be able to get on a plane and travel somewhere was huge. We are so grateful for a place like Patriot Point where our warriors can learn to incorporate a service dog into their lives in a beautiful, peaceful setting.”
Service dogs can reduce symptoms of PTSD by up to 80 percent. More than 40 percent of veterans with service dogs can cut back on their medications.
“After I left the military, I worked as a retail detective back home in Michigan. I suffered from PTSD and hypervigilance. At work, all the hustle and bustle reminded me of the streets of Iraq and sent me into flashbacks where I’d get physically sick,” said Gabe, a Marine Corps veteran who was part of the most recent class of Leashes of Valor veterans at Patriot Point. “I had a lot of trust issues with people. I’m hoping that with Patton, my service dog, I can get back out in society. I don’t do anything. I stay at home all the time. My kids are young. When they get older they’re going to start playing football and different sports. I want to be able to go to their games without worrying about if someone is out to get me.”
Said John, who served in the 7th Special Forces Group and deployed four times to Iraq and Afghanistan: “My hope is that Chesty will help with the anxiety and loneliness that soldiers tend to have. You don’t have to worry about a dog’s feelings. They’re just there for you.”
The pull to give back and support service members led Dennis Cappo to Patriot Point, where his business, Cappo & Associates Landscaping has helped turn the area between the Welcome Center and the Main House into a picturesque setting befitting a hardscape catalog.
“I come from a family where everyone has served and I feel there is an obligation to give back when we can,” Dennis Cappo said. “We may not all be able to afford the big financial donation, but we all can put in hard work, sweat equity and bust our butts to give back. We have got to take care of the guys and gals that have taken care of us and whom have sacrificed so much for America – remember that freedom isn’t free — it’s been paid for by the American warrior! Long live the brotherhood!”
At Patriot Point, Cappo & Associates has played a key role improving the entrance to the Main House, installing pavers in the driveway and creating sidewalks of pavers and personalized bricks donated through the Brick By Brick campaign. Cappo & Associates also installed an exterior stone veneer as part of the recent Main House renovations.
Dennis Cappo also reached out to his suppliers and has secured a donation of materials for a sprinkler system, and his company will donate the installation.
Relaxing and safe environment to enjoy outdoor recreational activities