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The Journey: A Mission Transition Story

by Leo Silva CMSgt (USAF Retired)

One of the main goals of Fidelity Partners has always been to support the Veterans of this great Nation to show appreciation for their sacrifice and service. It started with offering Transition Assistance.

Bo DePeña and I spent numerous hours at Starbucks discussing, over coffee, ways in which we could provide other means of support to our Veterans. One day I got a call…….Bo had bought some property in Real County, Texas. Where was Real County, I wondered; hoping it wasn’t too far out of town. Little did I know it would become a three-hour drive, which I have done most weekends for the past 16 months.

The next call I got was to let me know that we (Fidelity Partners) are going to set aside about 20-acres for use by Mission Transition. After a few meetings, it was decided that we would begin by clearing some trails and building a pavilion. The property closure was November of 2016 and the Mission Transition journey began.

Bo and Col Anderson, armed with chainsaws and loppers, blazed the first trail. The chainsaws and loppers were the only tools we had at first and it was quite a task trying to clear the trails. One day I got the news that we were having a Bobcat delivered. The Bobcat arrived, and we got the typical 10 minutes on-the-job Air Force training and then we were on our own, so Bo and I took turns figuring out the new toy. Now we could knock over the cedar trees with the bucket, but once again it didn’t take long to see that it wasn’t an efficient process. So, guess what? We got a grapple bucket and we were off to the races! We could now pull the cedar trees up by the roots and move them to a pile. That was an excellent choice and we were able to work faster and more efficiently.

Later, we got a Stump Grapple Bucket, so we cleared trails all over the property. We found that cutting branches beyond our reach was a real pain so, we purchased some pallet forks and had a cage built to work out of. I was the smart one, I handled the Bobcat while Bo got on the cage. You wouldn’t believe it! This place looked like a jungle…you couldn’t hardly walk through the woods. After completing the trails, we moved on to fencing, so here we go again with new toys. We acquired a Skid Steer Auger to dig holes and a post driver to pound in the fence posts. Last month we spent two weekends building a water barrier so that a flood would not disturb our pond. We spent over 39 hours digging and moving rock. One weekend it was freezing sleet, but that didn’t slow us down; we just kept digging.

Last summer when we first started digging that pond, tragedy struck. We had a beautiful large Oak tree overlooking the pond, and one weekend when we showed up that big Oak had fallen slap into the pond. We got some estimates on finishing the pond and heavy equipment that we might need to get the tree cleared out. Finally, we decided we could do it ourselves, so Bo and I went about cutting the big branches, and you guessed it, our wily trusty Bobcat was put to work pulling the tree out piece by piece. Oh, we left a little bit of it, so we could sit and reminisce over our resourcefulness. We have set up some beehives and hopefully we will be harvesting honey for use by Veterans. We also put together a grape vineyard and with a little luck, will be harvesting grapes soon.

Meanwhile we had this beautiful Pavilion built and here we are today hosting our first official function. It has been a long year, but most of the work was accomplished by Bo, Natalie and Rhone. I used my back and leg problem as an excuse to slack off.

As you can see, it’s a little rustic out here now. All Veterans here today can relate to the old days of field deployments. The rest of us can get an idea of what those deployments were like. Currently, we don’t have running water and electricity at this location, but we are a work in progress. Consider this a bivak area, and we are simply on a field deployment for the year.

Our next phase of the project is to begin building cabins which will be situated down the fence-line among the beautiful Oak trees. One day soon, we hope that our Wounded Warriors will begin to enjoy the serenity and quiet atmosphere, along with their families, as they begin their journey from clinical care to home.

It has been quite a journey, the freezing weather, sleet, some snow, hot weather, dust, dirt, rocks, and all the elements which hamper progress, however, we managed to overcome.

In any case, it has been a fulfilling experience and in looking around and seeing what we have done, one feels a sense of accomplishment. I think Lewis? can tell you what progress we have made.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this thought in mind: Fidelity Partners is the sponsor of Mission Transition, absorbing all administrative costs, and we are proud of the fact that it allows 100% of donations to be allocated to the Mission Transition Project.

We hope you walk away with a good feeling of our work here and what we plan to accomplish in the future. We ask for your continued interest and support.