Getting away from it all really can have a monumental impact on your spirit and mental health. And that’s certainly something that many U.S. veterans need.
So it’s no surprise that Steve Bukowski (who served as a Navy SEAL for 34 years) had a dream of opening a retreat center for veterans in need of help transitioning back to civilian life. Sadly, Steve died in 2010 without fulfilling his goal, but now, his wife Lynnette is working to make it a reality.
“Over the years he [Steve] realized, after 9/11 and after we went to the war, that the need was greater to bring the men home and have them have a place to decompress,” Bukowski told Catarina Andreano of ABC News. “The pressure under which they work is so extreme.”
Lynnette aims to open Landing Zone Grace Veterans Retreat in her home town of Virginia Beach, Virginia, within the next six months. She’s poured her own money into the nonprofit and started a GoFundMe account that has so far raised more than $15,000 toward her $75,000 goal. Bukowski notes on the website that she needs to raise that much within two weeks to be able to close on a 35-acre property and house for the retreat.
Bukowski plans to offer equine therapy, yoga, kennels for service animals, kayaking, and other treatments and activities. The nonprofit will first welcome returning Special Ops veterans before expanding to include members of all military branches and their spouses.
Why give Special Ops veterans first dibs? Lynnette wants to give them priority because their security clearance restricts how much they can talk about their experiences. She hopes at shared mealtimes they’ll feel free to open up with each other. “A huge problem among Special Ops is the high divorce rate, and it’s just not necessary,” she said.
Bukowski said that this type of retreat would have been tremendously helpful for her husband. “Steve practiced mediation when he came home from missions and deployment…He always needed a little time to isolate himself.”
Bukowski continues her fundraising campaign for Landing Zone Grace through June 20. Even a small donation could make a big difference to returning veterans.
MORE: These Sisters Created An Incredible Place to Help Veterans