A Defining Moment and the Journey to Spoken Outdoors

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Journey:  A traveling from one place to another, usually taking a rather long time. 

Our journey started 15-plus years ago.  A friend called needing help with a shooting event for disabled veterans halfway across the United States from where I lived.  Buddy in need of a hand, and having the skill set to help out, I agreed to the trip. 

In the midst of the craziness of hosting an event this size, I found myself sitting at a local burger joint with two incredible young men.  Unfortunately, time has allowed me to forget their names – but the story has visited my thoughts every day for the last 15 years.

Both young men grew up in the same town, went to the same high school, enlisted in the Army at the same time, went to boot camp together, and ultimately deployed to the same theater, although with different units.  

As fate would have it, they were both blown up on the same day, suffering nearly identical injuries. It seems to me that they were medevacked to the same place where they reconnected (though that may be my memory playing tricks on me).  

What I know is that they both ended up state side in the same hospital at the same time, going through the recovery and learning process together.  Each of the young men sat with me at a table in their wheelchairs, double amputees above the knee.

I listened to them tell their stories, the suffering, the challenges, the hopeless feeling for the future, and the emotional shift from victim to warrior.  They talked of getting their prosthetic legs later in the week.  One man shared the excitement of never getting back in the confining wheelchair again.  The other uttered “F*&% that, I am crippled and will never walk again”

Double amputee above-the-knee sitting on the ground with detached prosthetic legs in blue jeans beside him.

That moment, those words absolutely defined my calling.  There began my journey: to approach this community with a servant’s heart, sharing in the everyday challenges, standing beside as they fight to overcome, and ultimately using the outdoors as a vehicle to overcome challenges, build confidence and achieve greatness despite life-altering injury, to discover that there is hope.

Hundreds of events. Thousands of participants. Hundreds of volunteers. Lots of animals harvested. Boatloads of fish caught. Miles of rivers rowed. Covering over 20 states and two countries.  Critical lessons about life, learned.  This is by no means an all-inclusive list of learnings, rather just the highlights. 

  • Serving the needs of others has incredible impact in your life when you commit and actually do it.
  • Overcoming challenges, regardless of what they are, is always better with people you trust alongside.
  • Life’s greatest moments occur in part because of the people we’re with, the worst moments tolerable because of the people we were with.
  • Relationships matter.
  • Being disconnected from daily life ‘stuff’ in the outdoors is spectacular for our mental health.
  • The challenge before us is always bigger in our mind than it is in reality.

There is no question in my mind, the changes I have seen in the confidence of injured veterans and first responders, the depth of service in volunteers.  The Outdoors creates a near-perfect environment for everyone to grow, and become stronger physically, emotionally, and spiritually. 

Join us on this incredible journey sharing the outdoors, overcoming challenges, and experiencing life at its best.

Spoken Outdoors serves America’s Protectors by hosting events throughout the U.S. focusing on outdoor experiences that educate, stretch boundaries, challenge limits, and create confidence. Sign up for our newsletter or visit our website.

Heath Gunns

Executive Director of Spoken Outdoors | You can find him rowing a drift boat, fishing, or hunting. Over 15 years ago, he started in the non-profit sector letting him introduce the outdoors to so many people. Oh, and lets not forget his history as a Marine, Law Enforcement Officer, and firearms instructor.

5 responses to “A Defining Moment and the Journey to Spoken Outdoors”

  1. Clyde Caceres Avatar

    Well done my brother. Blessings to you as you embark on your “journey” of helping to empower others on their journey.

  2. Heath Avatar


    Thanks for the kind words. This is my calling, and I am blessed that it has allowed us to reconnect. I am super excited to see your next contribution to the Spoken Outdoors Blog.

    Wishing all the best!


  3. SuAnn Cook Avatar
    SuAnn Cook

    I can’t wait to see all of the things you’ll do!

  4. Michael & Lynda Lee Avatar
    Michael & Lynda Lee

    Heath & Brady,
    We agree, life is filled with a lot of chances, like meeting in another country waiting for a ferry. Since that time, about 25 yrs., we have been blessed to share parts of this journey with both of you. We look forward to helping support & enjoy more of this next chapter.
    Honor to honor – always with all our love and respect

    1. Heath Gunns Avatar
      Heath Gunns

      Its been an incredible adventure with you guys. Super excited to see what comes next for us.

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