American Legion holds retreat, encourages community involvement

General Manager of Prattville Bass Pro Shops Eric Alford (left) donated over $6,000 in monetary and supply donations to the Alabama Department of the American Legion, and presented the donations to Veteran and Clanton native Greg Akers.

General Manager of Prattville Bass Pro Shops Eric Alford (left) donated over $6,000 in monetary and supply donations to the Alabama Department of the American Legion, and presented the donations to Veteran and Clanton native Greg Akers.

The American Legion Department of Alabama strives to make a difference in veterans’ lives.

This weekend, the organization is focusing on helping individuals cope with post-war stress, an issue that Clanton native and American Legion Adjutant Greg Akers holds close to his heart.

Akers and other members of Alabama’s department of the American Legion came up with the idea to hold a veterans retreat for servicemen who suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The retreat will be held Aug. 21-23 in Wetumpka.

“Some other veterans and myself were sitting in Waffle House talking about things we had done on active duty,” Akers said. “We realized we all had some similar experiences, and we started thinking of ways we could help other people who have a hard time dealing with traumatic memories and things like that.”

30 veterans were chosen from across the state to participate in the three-day event.

“We want to get their minds off of what has gone on or what is going on right now,” Akers said. “We’ll go fishing, watch movies, and just talk. We want it to be a relaxing time for veterans.”

The veterans will be escorted from Montgomery to Wetumpka by American Legion riders.

Various counselors recommended the veterans who were selected to participate.

Akers said there will be various counselors and supportive veterans on site, and the weekend will conclude with a barbecue.

“It will be a safe space for the veterans, counselors and volunteers,” Akers said.

Because Akers plans to make the retreat an annual event, he accepts recommendations for future applicants.

Akers is a retired veteran, and served for “21 years, 6 months, and 2 days,” including time in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Central America and Korea.

A resident of Clanton, Akers became greatly involved in the American Legion after retiring in the summer of 2014.

Akers encourages his community to get involved in the organization “now more than ever.”

“Now is the most challenging time ever,” Akers said. “We can’t assist anybody without money or proper communication.

“If we pull together and become more active in veterans’ lives as a community, we can make a big difference.”

Akers commended local and statewide businesses for their donations and assistance in organizing the veterans’ retreat.

John Deere of Clanton sponsored the event, in addition to the following sponsors from across the state: Bass Pro Shops (Prattville), Central Ala. Veterans Health Care System, Ala. Department of Labor, Ala. Law Enforcement Agency, Camp Chandler YMCA, Home Depot (Prattville, Coca-Cola, Easter Seals Dogs on Call, Department of Alabama SAL, Target (Prattville), Ala. American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard Riders, Montgomery Harley Owners Group (HOG) and Chappy’s Deli.

For more information on the retreat or the organization, contact the Alabama Department of the American Legion at (334) 262-6638.

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