Operation Cherrybend brings veterans, civilians together to battle veteran depression and suicide


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WILMINGTON — Operation Cherrybend welcomed 43 veterans and songwriters to the Cherrybend Pheasant Farm for the Annual Veterans Retreat Sept. 8-13.

Seventeen alumni veteran participants returned as team leaders to welcome the 15 new veteran recruits. Several local veteran crew members were also onsite to assist and participate. Twenty states were represented from Alaska to Massachusetts.

The weeks leading up to the event were rife with stress for many; it was difficult with the 13 Marines killed in Afghanistan, the rise of the delta variant, and one of the OpCbend songwriters, Rick Tiger, losing the battle to COVID the week before the event. Tiger is author of the song “Cherrybend” that he wrote in 2017 about our veterans and debuted at the Murphy Theatre.

Many have struggled to process and cope with the everything just feeling upside down. Gathering, sharing thoughts, comforting each other and powering through the tough moments together has helped many deal with the kaleidoscope of emotions that generally trigger depression.

There was much laughter and friendships made that help many push through these difficult times.

The OpCbend participants tent-camped onsite in what they named “Camp Tiger”. All meals were donated by community members. Red Cross volunteers provided medical assistance. An Eyes of Freedom Trailer stood watch over the event, delivered by R+L Carriers.

Activities included skydiving, dove hunting, fishing, shooting tournament, and a fundraising concert at the farm featuring country artist Randy Houser. Songwriters played campfire music throughout the week.

The veteran event is organized by Operation Cherrybend, a 501(c)(3) with a volunteer board and volunteer crew and the mission to create networks of support for veterans through adventure, events, social interaction and music. Many thanks to our community sponsors for helping make this happen.

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