PROSPERITY, SC (WIS) - A small retreat in Prosperity is offering wounded warriors the chance to get away and enjoy the great outdoors.
The Freedom and Hope Foundation offers hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities to veterans needing a weekend getaway and most of the vets who walk through the front door of the Freedom Isn't Free lodge know what it's like to pay for that freedom - many of them wounded while fighting overseas.
They say the Freedom and Hope Foundation is a much-needed retreat.
Robert Barber, a veteran who was wounded while serving in Afghanistan, says the lodge offers recreation activities that he can't do at home.
"Hunting, fishing, recreation activities - we have boats," Barber said. "We take people out on the water. I mean, I can't afford a boat. So, it's nice to get on the water every once in a while."
Barber says when he joined the National Guard, he knew he wanted to deploy right away.
"Like a lot of other people, 9/11 kind of inspired me to join," Barber said.
He worked as a military police officer first in Iraq, and then Afghanistan.
"About five, six miles from where Bin Laden was killed and captured, but our job there was the same thing - training the AUP's, Afghan Uniform Police," Barber explained.
In 2012, he and his squad were attacked by a suicide bomber. Three men were killed, and five others severely injured, including Barber who lost his leg.
"The injuries were so bad," Barber recalled. "I kind of bled out and then they had to actually do a heart massage to bring me back because I was, I guess, clinically dead."
Decades earlier, Wako Cotney was fighting for his life in Vietnam.
"The three-week-long battle, that was one of the biggest battles in Vietnam," Cotney said.
He, too, can recall the price many soldiers - including himself - pay for freedom.
"The first shot that I received was right in the middle of the back. The second time I got wounded was through the jaw and the shoulder," Cotney said as he remembered the day he was wounded. "25 of my men were killed."
Cotney says it's wasn't until the next morning that he received medical treatment for his injuries. It's a night he says he's thankful he remembers little of.
"God gives some good natural amnesia that you don't have to remember some traumatic things," Cotney said.
Barber says there are many different layers to recovery. He says there's the mental part where you just of sit at the house and this is where the foundation helps.
"You just kind of become a couch potato and that's not healthy. So, the organization just gives you the opportunity to get out the house and get out there and do something," he said.
"It's a tremendous organization," Cotney said.
There's also a Christmas tree inside the lodge. They keep it there all year round and say it's always Christmas at Freedom at Hope because they're always giving.
The Freedom and Hope Foundation provides weekend getaways, free of charge, to wounded warriors and critically ill children. For more about the foundation and the lodge, you can visit their website.