There has been a lot of publicity about the alarming suicide rate among veterans. Twenty-two veterans take their own lives each day, per the Department of Veterans Affairs. What is less talked about is the suicide rate among the innocent children who have lost parents in the line of duty.
Ethan Farwell was a bright, vibrant, clean-cut Eagle Scout. On Nov. 11, 2017, he took his own life. He was 15 years old. Ethan’s father Gary Farwell, Jr., died in combat as an Army helicopter pilot and Ethan, like all our Gold Star kids, struggled with his grief. We came to know Ethan when his grandfather, Gary Farwell, Sr., offered his Idaho ranch to Freedom Hunters for a wounded veterans’ hunt 3 years ago. Ethan was 12 years old at the time and his granddad was a little too old to chase Western mule deer. Our vets immediately abandoned their own hunt and took Ethan under their wing so the boy could get his first deer. You’ve never seen a kid so happy in your life. We kept up with Ethan in the following years and we felt heartbroken when we learned of his death.
When we asked Gary Sr., a retired Army veterinarian, what we could do for the family, Gary said his biggest regret was not getting Ethan to a Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS) “Good Grief” camp. Maybe that would have turned the tide for him and he simply asked that we try to do something for kids like Ethan before it’s too late for them.
To honor Gary’s request, Freedom Hunters has partnered with TAPS to host the first “Good Grief Gold Star Camp” for kids of fallen military members this June 17 to 24. We have secured a venue at the Lake Tahoe Coast Guard Station and are in detailed planning for the weeklong camp. Approximately 14 boys and girls, age 14 to 18, from Nevada, California and around the country, will participate in fishing, mountain biking, flying, conservancy and team-building adventures guided by Freedom Hunters volunteers. TAPS will embed child development and grief counseling experts into the group to provide a framework and outlet for the kids’ healing. For this inaugural camp, we have more than 20 more Gold Star kids on a waiting list and if all goes well, we hope to expand in the Lake Tahoe area, as well as other states in the coming years.
While we have secured a venue, and have planned several activities, we have limited financing and infrastructure for this initial program. We are in desperate need of additional resources to round out the week. There are so many kids out there just like Ethan – lives turned upside down at an age that is already difficult and confusing. If we can save one kid and help one kid find some purpose or hope or meaning in life, then this initiative is worth all of our efforts.
This initial Good Grief Gold Star Camp is being organized by Marine Corps veteran and former fighter pilot Chris Parkhurst, who also is a board director for Freedom Hunters, a nonprofit group dedicated to reuniting veterans and military families with the great outdoors.
We still have many needs to meet to make this first camp a success for these children who have lost so much. I look forward to the opportunity to talk with you about our program, our Tahoe camp and what we need from the community to make this a success.
If you are interested in a sponsorship, please contact Chris by email, email@example.com, or phone, 775-276-8746.
Learn more about TAPS.
About Freedom Hunters
Freedom Hunters is a military outreach program dedicated to honoring those who protect our freedoms. Our mission is to salute the noble work of our courageous men and women of our Armed Forces. Freedom Hunters reflects the outdoor community’s appreciation to our troops by taking: select active duty and combat veterans, families of fallen heroes, children of the deployed, as well as those wounded or injured, on outdoor adventures. Freedom Hunters’ mission is empowered by the generous support of many: sportsmen, conservation groups, state agencies, outfitters, corporations and land owners.
Learn more about Freedom Hunters.