This Letter Brought Me to Tears - Here's Why
A few nights ago I received an email. The contents of that letter touched me greatly, and is reason I'm writing you today.
The email started out as a simple thank-you note from a man named Dustin. In the end, it turns out that I would be the grateful one. Here's Dustin's story:
Dustin wanted to let me know that he was a loyal customer of My Patriot Supply. He's also a long-distance hiker, currently walking and camping on the Appalachian trail. He's been hiking and living off the grid for three years now.
He wanted to thank me for our food products. He told me our food was his favorite for his cross-country treks. For him, packing light is everything. He said that our food proved a better, lightweight alternative than the traditional camping and outdoor meals sold in stores. Plus, he found that he could make a larger variety of meals from our different recipes.
Dustin on the Appalachian trail.
Then I learned the reason why Dustin has spent the last three years hiking across our great country. And it nearly moved me to tears. In fact, my eyes are a bit misty as I write this to you now.
You see, Dustin is a combat vet. To use his words, hiking is a way he found to "walk off the war." What he shared gave me a lot of perspective on life, and I hope it will for you too.
In his email, Dustin told me that he was staying for the next couple of nights at a place called Uncle Johhny's Hostel in Erwin, TN. This short stop on his journey gave him temporary access to the internet and phone. I replied to his email and asked him if I could give him a call the next morning. He agreed.
The next morning, I phoned Uncle Johhny's and Uncle Johhny himself answered the phone. Talk about a lovable character straight out of the Tennessee woods! He found Dustin, handed him the phone. For the next half hour, I had one of the best conversations with another human being that I've ever had.
I learned that Dustin has been an avid outdoorsman his whole life. After coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq he was desperate to find a way to deal with the trauma of war. He found long-distance hiking to be therapeutic and set out on the trails almost three years ago. He hasn't looked back since.
Dustin talked about his life before the war. He used to be a professional roofing contractor - a skill he now trades for the occasional room and board when he's not sleeping under the stars.
In fact, the reason he was going to be at Uncle Johnny's for a couple of days was to help Johnny repair his roof before the next rain set in. Since returning home, Dustin has received a wilderness EMT certification, along with several others. He hopes to one day be a wilderness guide. But for now, he is finding too much solace in his own wilderness adventures to give that up.
Through a crackly phone line (apparently even land-line phone service leaves a lot to be desired on the trail), I was granted the gift of insight. Insight into the life of one of our veterans who has found peace and comfort living with nature.
Dustin's model for living can teach us all something. Here's a man who wakes up every day doing exactly what he wants. Each day he grows smarter and stronger. Each day he becomes more at peace with the past.
On an average day, Dustin wakes up long before dawn. He makes coffee and finishes his breakfast before the sun has risen. Then he hikes for 20-26 miles until sunset. Dustin shared that there actually is a social aspect to what he does. He'll often run into other people on the trails, including other vets. They share meals, stories, exchange knowledge. Instant friendships are forged that are then put on pause until they cross paths again.
Dawn breaks on the Appalachian trail.
At the end of the day, however, Dustin goes off to set up his camp alone. But Dustin doesn't struggle with loneliness on the trail. Dustin did share that after the war, he struggled with insomnia. Now, he says being alone out in the wilderness helps him sleep peacefully.
As Dustin put it: "We all have a long trail to walk in life. It's the folks we walk alongside, even if only for a mile, that make us who we are."
So well put. For me, helping folks in their preparedness journey makes me the man I am. It's the same for Dustin as he moves a little bit further down the trail. I'm humbled that, in my own way, I've been allowed to be a part of his journey.
I told Dustin that I found his story incredibly inspirational and asked him if I could share it will all of you, and he agreed. May his story be a lesson to all of us. To embrace our liberty. To engage fully in the pursuit of happiness. To set a good example for others. Finally, to use our freedom to help those in need. That's the only way to find true peace in this world.
We all walk a trail in life.
Dustin's dinner set-up and shelter.
Since Dustin's story inspired me so much, I wanted to return the favor. I told Dustin that I would be sending him a care package via overnight delivery to replenish his supply of food and coffee. I mentioned that if I sent too much, more than he could carry, to please distribute what was left to other vets on the trail. He actually sounded more excited at the idea of sharing than what he himself was going to receive. I know that package will be in good hands.
This letter does not contain any "special deals" or promotions. I simply wanted to relay a little of Dustin's story in the hopes that you might be as inspired reading it as I was hearing it.
Thank you, Dustin, for your service. And thank you for being such a great example of the American spirit.
From all of us at My Patriot Supply - stay safe out there!
Read last week's Survival Scout: SPECIAL PREPAREDNESS BULLETIN - FAMILY EDITION