Leap of faith provides hope for heroes

November 2014 - Cover Story
by Kevin Boozer

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November 2014 - Cover Story

Sergeant Joe Merritt saw the buck, but his hands shook too much to confidently squeeze off a shot. A retired Marine and National Guardsman, Merritt had suffered multiple traumatic brain injuries during his service in Iraq and walked with a cane at the time.

Before Merritt could lower his rifle in frustration, however, strong hands clasped his, steadying his weapon and allowing him to fire. The deer scampered off, but Merritt found a greater prize—fellowship with Terry Cotney.

Cotney, an Air Force veteran, is the founder and executive director of Freedom and Hope Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides recreational therapy for wounded veterans and children with life-threatening diseases. Merritt is one of the many soldiers who has benefited from Cotney’s support.

“I showed up here, handicapped and recovering, and I fell in love with what Terry has been doing,” Merritt said. “I renewed my faith in God out in these woods.”

In 2004, Merritt suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) when his convoy was hit by an improvised explosive device. On disability, he received a medical discharge for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the injury. He came to the foundation’s hunting lodge for weekend and weekday retreats in an attempt to reestablish himself in civilian life. Because Merritt struggles with arthritis, cognitive function, and  light and sound disturbances,  the acres of wooded land and fishing ponds minister to him.

Why did Christ die for you?   www.whyhedied.org

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