We are all thankful for the role our military plays in securing freedom for our great country. Sometimes it seems we can’t do enough for our veterans, especially our wounded veterans. However, there is an organization in Florida known as Operation Outdoor Freedom that helps to honor our wounded veterans.
Thanks to the Florida Forest Service and agricultural landowners around the state, recreational opportunities have been provided to our wounded veterans allowing them to enjoy the outdoors through hunting, fishing, rodeos, and more.
With help from the Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam, Operation Outdoor Freedom is a program of the Florida Forest Service and Friends of Florida State Forests, and is designed to accommodate wounded veterans and allow them to experience outdoor recreation and rehabilitation.
With guided and unguided events, activities include turkey hunts, hog hunts, fishing expeditions (freshwater & salt water), rodeos, and more. The most recent excursion was a hunt that took six veterans from the Army, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard to the Econfina Creek Water Management Area in Bay and Washington counties. This event was hosted and supported by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Florida Forest Service, Friends of Florida State Forests and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Eligibility requires a service-connected disability rating of 30% or greater from the United States Department of Veteran Affairs or Purple Heart recipient. The program has proven successful with some returning two and three times.
The future of Operation Outdoor Freedom relies on support and donations from citizens within local communities, business owners, and landowners. All donations are tax-deductible and go directly to continuing hunts and exploring opportunities for new outdoor recreation activities.