A wounded war veteran looks to help other combat vets

Chris Rupp knows what it’s like to serve in an armed conflict and then to deal with its aftereffects.

Both have led him to seek help for other combat veterans by volunteering with the Wounded Heroes Hunting Camp, an all-volunteer national nonprofit that takes injured service veterans on free hunting and fishing trips.

The group, founded by US Marine Corps pilot Capt. Jeremy Harbaugh and outdoorsman Zachary Bower, is sponsoring a deer hunt this weekend near Hartly for three combat-wounded veterans.

A 2000 graduate of Caesar Rodney High School, Rupp joined the Delaware National Guard in 2005.

“After high school, I was just going around from job to job,” he said. “After seeing the war kicking off and being from a military family, I thought I should serve.”

Rupp’s time in the Guard saw him sent to Iraq and Afghanistan, combat tours that affected him both physically and mentally.

Injured during a training exercise and later suffering from a pulmonary embolism, Rupp accepted a 2014 medical retirement from the Guard.

Rupp’s combat tours also resulted in a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, manifested by bouts of depression, anxiety, and guilt.

“I felt I hadn’t completed my mission over there, that I’d left my battle buddies behind,” he said. Patrols outside his base, always having to be on guard against surprise attacks made the situation even worse.

“I was outside the wire a lot, and that added to it, a lot,” Rupp said.

Now a full-time student, he must do his schoolwork online because he can’t handle the pressure of a classroom environment.

His work helping other veterans suffering from PTSD, traumatic brain injuries and other problems as a result of their combat service helps him deal with his own problems, Rupp said.

To learn more about the Wounded Heroes Hunting Camps, visit whhc.org.

What does working with other wounded veterans do for you?

It’s the thrill of seeing them happy, that they’re not going through all of this alone and knowing that I’m not alone, either. People wounded in combat know what that feeling is like.

How do these hunting trips help veterans?

We’re getting them out. They go on hunting and fishing trips from Delaware to Washington state and even in Canada. If they have limited mobility, we have track chairs they can use.

We challenge them and empower them and enable them to do the things they love to do. There’s a lot of camaraderie in being around other military veterans that understand what they go through daily.

How much does it cost for one of these trips?

It varies. For a pheasant hunt in Pennsylvania, we covered hotels, meals, licenses and guide fees and that cost about $1,000 per person. We raise money through word of mouth, fundraisers and from donations.