After a career in the military, many veterans feel lost once they’re discharged. One former Dallas, Texas, Marine understood that fact better than anyone, so he decided to do something about it.
John Cody Hardin was a United States Marine from 2005 until 2010. Although the military does ‘separations training’ during the last three months of service, John felt a need for more peer-to-peer interaction as he faced his new life as a civilian. An avid outdoorsman, John decided to start a non-profit that would give veterans hands-on programs with others like them, while also enabling them to experience adventures outdoors.
“My father had been a defense attorney for over 40 years and I had plans to follow in his footsteps,” said John. “So, after college, he hired me to work for him as a legal assistant, while I prepared for law school.” Though John felt like he was on the right path, he knew something was missing.
Life after the military was an emotional roller coaster. Once the uniform comes off and the camaraderie, sense of purpose and responsibility you had in the military is gone, your life can start to feel meaningless. Like many other veterans, I struggled with the transition back to civilian life and found it difficult to reconnect socially with others. There were good days when I thought I had everything figured out and dark days when I was completely lost.
Although John tried his best to focus on school and work, he rediscovered a childhood love of getting lost outdoors. He began to hike and found it was the perfect outlet for him to escape his thoughts and decompress. It was this love of the outdoors along with a nudge from a fellow ex-Marine that encouraged John to start a non-profit for veterans.
And so, The Warrior’s Keep was born.
The organization “provides free access to outdoor activities and adventures designed to educate and assist with the difficulties of reconnecting socially, while achieving inner peace and healing of the mind.”
These activities are especially important for veterans who suffer from PTSD, helping them connect with nature and focus on their health and well-being. Doing a hike with a group of fellow vets also simulates the feeling of accomplishment, camaraderie, and purpose much like their time in the service.
Outdoor engagement activities have been shown to improve quality of life and allow veterans the opportunity to process and reflect on their experiences. Our belief is that sometimes the best medicine is nature’s medicine. We currently offer 3 programs: Vet-Ex Program (Veteran Excursions), Vet-Rec Program (Veteran Recreations) and the Vet-Connect Program.
The Warrior’s Keep also organizes multiple social and service events throughout the year, from group hikes to ski trips, visits to veteran homes, charitable music events, and more. John’s ultimate goal is to create a 100+ acre retreat with cabins and campgrounds for veterans to gather for outdoor excursions. He hopes that this facility will be the perfect place for those “lost” after life in the military to bond with new friends and learn how to love their lives after severing the responsibility of service life.
John continues to work full-time as a paralegal in his father’s law office, but his heart is truly with his passion project, The Warrior’s Keep.
Since we are strictly a volunteer-based organization, with no paid positions, most everyone involved is either a full-time student or has a full-time job. Finding individuals that are passionate about the mission and motivated to help others is crucial to organizational success. It truly takes a special person to sacrifice their own time to serve others.
As if it weren’t enough to serve his country, here we have a true American hero putting the needs of others above his own. In this way, John and his fellow volunteers continue to serve, and for that, we are immensely grateful.
Please share this story to say thank you to John, and to raise awareness for this incredible organization for our veterans.