Are you a veteran, but feel alienated from others? Having trouble adjusting to civilian life or simply finding people to talk to? A couple of veterans, Daniel Wysong and Will Connell, have formed a …
Are you a veteran, but feel alienated from others? Having trouble adjusting to civilian life or simply finding people to talk to? A couple of veterans, Daniel Wysong and Will Connell, have formed a relaxed, open support group for veterans of all ages which allows for fun, fellowship and support called Reference Point.
While Wysong serves as the CEO and Connell as COO, the two 35-year-olds are both founding members. It all started in April 2017, after the two got a group of vets together to shoot some guns and let off steam.
“We did it as a one-time deal, but at the end of the night, a guy came up to me — who was a gunny when I was in the service as a corporal — and he asked me when we were doing the next one,” Wysong said.
Connell explained that many veterans are uneasy about going to shooting ranges with people they don’t know, as they don’t know how well the people beside them are trained in firearms, if at all, which has led to injuries and even deaths for some vets in the past.
“There’s a level of trust required for us, so our issue was finding a private piece of land we could use to get together, cook out, shoot some guns and enjoy each other’s company without exterior pressures. We were able to make a full day out of it, and we called it a Range Day,” Connell said.
Range Day is just that, a group of veterans coming together without fear of outside influences to fellowship and shoot guns at the range. This not only allows them to blow off steam and keep from getting rusty with a firearm, but also allows them to network with one another and build contacts with their fellow, supportive veterans.
This season’s Range Day takes place on Saturday, Nov. 3 and runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The founders said they encounter numerous events that compete with Range Day such as hunting seasons and sporting events which make planning the day difficult, but they try to host it on the best day for everyone.
The first location was held at a unique spot, but the last three have been held at a location in Northwest Georgia, near Tunnel Hill and Ringgold.
Range Day is open to veterans and active duty service members. Wysong and Connell have looked at holding targeted days like family or law enforcement days in the future, but have only catered to military thus far. The only “members” of the group are the two founders and their public affairs officer, Andrew Craig, and they said that membership and the fees that would typically come with it are an afterthought for them, as fostering fellowship is their biggest goal, not raising member dues.
Each Range Day has attracted a larger crowd each successive time. The first time, there were around 30 people; the second, about 50; and the third approached 100. Connell said they hope to break 100 at the upcoming event.
All ages are welcomed, but Wysong said the older generation is more difficult to reach, as many World War II and Vietnam veterans simply want to be left alone. The generational technology gap also makes it difficult to contact these men, as most of them are not accessible through Facebook or social media of any sort, which is why the founders are seeking to grow awareness of their organization, as well as attendance.
Attendees are encouraged to bring their own guns, but unique weapons will also be provided by a company out of Dalton, Georgia, called Combat Ordinance Systems. These weapons include over 20 fully automatic and specialty firearms that most soldiers don’t see every day.
“You see some of these weapons in ‘Call of Duty’ like Browning M2s, and a lot of guns we never got to play with like a DShK, which is a cheap, Russian weapon used by Middle Eastern soldiers,” Connell said.
While the shooting range is fun, the founders admit the events are for veteran resource sharing above all.
“The idea there is that if a vet just got out of service and needs a line on a house him and his family can live in, Reference Point directs them to the proper needs,” Wysong said. “It’s all about veterans helping veterans.”
While it is comprised of numerous members from Cleveland, Ringgold, Chattanooga, etc., the two said they would love for more Cleveland residents to join in the fun.
All veterans are encouraged to attend. Connell and Wysong ask that you bring some sort of military identifier to participate, but aside from that, they hope to see everyone there.
This season’s Range Day takes place Nov. 3, at 3134 Bandy Road, Ringgold GA 30736.
For more information, check out its Facebook page or call 423-698-1744.
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