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The Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast: The Healing of the Outdoors with John McDaniel

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While in Tampa at the RV Super Show, Denis Phares, host of the Li-MITLESS ENERGY podcast, is joined by John McDaniel, founder of the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (WWIAF). Together, John and Denis discuss John’s military career, his inspiration for starting the WWIAF, and the impact it has on Purple Heart Veterans. With the help of a Battle Born Batteries-powered solar system, the WWIAF’s Camp Hackett is an off-grid getaway where veterans can experience peace and healing.

John McDaniel’s Mission to Serve Purple Heart Veterans

John McDaniel WWIAF outside of an Airstream trailer

Following 20 years as an infantry officer in the military, John McDaniel retired in 2007. He was inspired to start a foundation when he visited the James A. Haley Polytrauma Center—a place where he saw the impact of the war on the young men there. Combining his passion for the outdoors and helping veterans, he came up with the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (WWIAF).

What started by taking one veteran fishing–and then two–continued to grow until small groups were able to go on trips. They started by going to John’s place in the Florida Keys and then transitioned into a large piece of property in northern Wisconsin. Each of these ‘missions’ was dedicated to giving veterans a sense of purpose and connectedness. John is currently in the process of making Camp Hackett more accessible with an ADA-compliant bathroom and sleeping area so that wheelchair-bound heroes can be served. He hopes to continue to refine the organization’s mission and reach out to more veterans.

John McDaniel and Wade Seaburg

The Healing of the Outdoors with John McDaniel on the Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast

During this episode of the Li-MITLESS ENERGY Podcast, John and Denis sit down to discuss the founding of the WWIAF and the impact of their partnership with Dragonfly Energy. After hearing about John’s mission from an old friend, Wade Seaburg, Dragonfly’s current Chief Revenue Officer, offered to help. He met up with John at Camp Hackett, a 410-acre wild and remote property in northern Wisconsin. Following a site survey, Wade and his team returned a few weeks later and quickly got to work installing lights, batteries, and solar power. John and Denis attribute the success of this mission between Dragonfly Energy and WWIAF to the engagement of leadership at all levels of the organization and creating a culture of problem-solving and serving others.

Listen to the full episode wherever you stream podcasts or watch the recording through our YouTube channel. Keep up with John and the WWIAF through their Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Episode Transcript

Denis Phares  00:00

Hi. I’m Denis Phares, and this is the Limitless Energy Podcast, and we’re here in Tampa at the RV Super Show, and we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity to bring on some very interesting guests. I’m here with John McDaniel, founder of the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation. And first of all, sir, thank you for your service. And thank you for everything that you do for our veterans.


John McDaniel  00:37

You know, it’s an honor to be here and finally meet you, Denis. And your team has been amazing. They’ve helped the foundation, you personally have helped the foundation grow, and you’ve invested in it. And, you know, it’s an honor to be here. And I wanted to personally thank you right off the bat for what you and your amazing team have done for the foundation.


Denis Phares  00:56

Well, you’re absolutely welcome for that. And you know, we’re absolutely thrilled that we’re able to help in your mission and what you’re trying to do. So, let’s get right into it. How did this get started?


John McDaniel  01:08

Yeah. So, I did a 20-year career as an infantry officer and a special operations guy, so I was on active duty from 87 to 07. And when I retired, I, you know, I thought long and hard about what I did want to do post, you know, military career. And you’ve heard a lot of people say, you know, find something that you’re passionate about, and figure out a way to, you know, to either make a career or a difference in that space. And when I was retiring, and like 05, two years, when I got the special, I retired from Special Operations Command, which is a stone’s throw from here, where we are, and the war was raging in 2005. When I first got there, I thought, you know, I’ll just do one more, one more tour, and then I’ll hang up the tennis shoes, you know, put the boots, take off the boots and the uniform and so I went to SOCOM to Special Operations, to do that one more tour.


John McDaniel  02:10

And the James A. Haley Polytrauma Center is here in Tampa. It’s one of, at the time, one of two polytrauma centers. And I used to go there routinely up on the sixth floor because it was the worst of the worst up there. You know, young men, you know, chewing on rubber balls so that they didn’t swallow their tongues, you know, and traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries. It was, I mean, that’s where the guys that are really banged up go, and it changed everything for me here. Here I was at SOCOM, you know, making sausage, if you will, prosecuting the global war on terror, and not even 15 miles from the headquarters is this polytrauma center where these guys have, you know, been, you know, evac’ed from the battlefield, you know, probably went to Germany, and then from Germany back here, and their moms, dads, loved ones are up there.


And I was blown away. You know, even having been a combat soldier, I was just blown away at what was going on. And I thought to myself, jeez, there’s got to be something I can do. You know, I mean, I’m doing something, I’m wearing a uniform, and I’m prosecuting this war and have, you know, been on the other side of it, you know, but I thought, surely, there’s got to be something that I can do. And so, I came up with this idea of, I said, “Well, you know, what am I passionate about? I’m passionate about the outdoors. I’m passionate about the men and women who, you know, get wounded in combat and of course, this country.” So, I just combined those things and came up with the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation. And so here we are 17 years downstream, providing, you know, world-class outdoor sporting activities for our nation’s combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients. And it’s 17 years, you know, from the time I retired and started the foundation, you know, it’s thriving, it’s a going concern, 60 missions, 35 different states. And we serve between 250 and 300 combat wounded annually.


Denis Phares  04:16

So, this is a passion of yours; you like the outdoors, but as you’re visiting the facility and talking to these wounded combat veterans, is this something that came up as you’d ask them what they like to do, what would make things better? I mean, how did that originate?


John McDaniel  04:30

Great question. Okay, so, the person that was in charge of the polytrauma center, on the sixth floor there. Well, there was a recreational therapist up there; her name was Mary, Mary Donovan. And I got to know her, and I said, you know, what about taking some of these guys, you know, fishing I have a boat I live right on the water; you know. And she said, “Yeah, that’d be great.” But most of those guys weren’t able to go fishing. You know, they were still there, and if you’re in the polytrauma center with a traumatic brain injury or spinal cord injury, you’re not going out on my boat, okay? Until you’re discharged and they, you know, they say you’re, you’re good to go. So, I thought to myself, well, what could I do? And you’re gonna like this because you’re a guitar player. So, I know that you’re like, wait, where’s this guy going with this? Okay, so check this out. So, at the, at the Amalie arena, the big arena here in town, Van Halen was coming. Okay. And they were just getting back together with David Lee Roth, and it was just the first concert in North America where he was coming back to join the band. And I thought to myself, “What if I get a suite?” You know, and I asked Mary Donovan, I said, “Could you get these guys out of this hospital, you know, and get them to the suite? So, we can rock and roll to Van Halen? She goes, “Yeah, I can do that.” So, I said, done. So, I bought the suite, I got it all arranged.


John McDaniel  06:08

And the next thing you know, on the concert day, I’m standing out there. And these two tour buses rock up, with all these combat wounded, and they’re pretty much all in wheelchairs. And they’re looking at me like, like, I owe them money. They don’t know who I am. They have no idea. And I didn’t care. So, I just want to go “Hey, let’s get them out of this hospital.” Because I know what that’s like. So, they are all you know, looking at me, we get them up there. And boom, here comes Van Halen. And they’re just rockin’. And the next morning, I called the sixth floor up to Mary Donovan. And I said, “How’s it going?” she goes, “Listen to this,” and she puts her phone, and you can hear them; they’re all rocking out. And having a blast. She said, “It’s nuts up here; you got to see it. They loved it. They loved it.” And so, I thought to myself, geez, I can make a difference. There’s something I can do. And so that concert really was the very first thing that I did. I was still on active duty; I was still wearing a uniform. And so, then I got to really thinking about, you know, what could I do? And I thought, surely, I can’t be the only person on the planet that likes to hunt and fish. I know there are lots of people that like to do that.


John McDaniel 07:19

And a lot of these veterans surely would like to do that, have done it, or would like to do it. And so that’s, that’s how it all started. And I started taking them, I had a place in the Florida Keys. Okay, I had a place here in Tampa, and I had this big chunk of property in northern Wisconsin. And so that’s what I started doing I it was just me and one guy, I was just doing onesies. And then and then when I, you know, they’re spending long weekends with me, and I’d get to know them, you know, obviously, and I thought, wow, this is really helping, it’s not only helping them, it’s helping me. And so, you know, as things grew, and I sort of figured out how to do this, we were adding, you know, 1, 2, 3 and operating in small groups. So now we operate in fire team size like five is a good number because that’s how we fight. So, the basic, the basic fighting component of an infantry unit is a team. And then there’s the squad. So, the team is about five or six. And a squad is two teams. So, they’re used to that. They like that. And oh, by the way, if you get four or five guys together, that dynamic is great; you start getting bigger than that, start losing guys, you know, it’s like they get lost in the sauce. So, anyway, that’s, that’s what we do now, and we have been doing it. That’s our formula. And we’ve refined it over the years. But it really seems to work.


Denis Phares  08:40

That’s great that it started from a rock concert, from a Van Halen concert, and now you’re looking for peace and serenity, but, you know, I just want to touch on the fact that as you put these events on, you have referred to them as missions. And, you know, it’s as, as a combat veteran yourself, there’s obviously some similarities or at least you’re looking for some similarities to make it familiar for, for the veterans as you take them out. Can you talk a little bit about that?


John McDaniel  09:11

Sure. Well, you know, Mission, powerful word, we’re just super for a guy like me, that’s a powerful word. Mission. I mean, I lock in on that so quick, like, everything that I did while you were wearing a uniform had to do with mission. Okay, so a mission statement, and, you know, who, what, where, when, and why. Okay, so. So that’s the basic components of a mission statement. It’s the second paragraph of a six-paragraph operations order, like in my language and the language that I grew up in, right, so we don’t do anything without an operations order. And there’s, typically, there’s five paragraphs to that, you know, everything from the situation, mission, execution, communications, and you know, logistics support. Those are the five basic paragraphs of a mission, right? Of an operations order. But, you know, the mission is a very powerful word. And so, it has two basic chunks to that is one is a mission-essential task. Yeah, what must I do? You have to answer that question, what must I do? And if you’ve got a good mission statement, it tells you what you must do. CS Hill 234. Okay, that’s my mission essential task. But the other part is purpose. You know, it answers why am I doing that. CS Hill 1234 To protect Bravo, companies flank as they move on to the objective green, as an example. Right? So, mission, central task, and purpose.


John McDaniel  10:40

And I thought to myself, jeez, purpose, right, these guys had been banged up, right, and they had to take off their uniform. The one thing they wanted in all in their life is now gone. And so, the mission is over; they’re lost, they don’t have, you know, the sense of purpose is kind of gone. And so, what I did, and what we’re doing today, is kind of filling that, that that gap, that void, okay, and providing, you know, purpose, direction, motivation, and connectedness, you know, getting them together in small groups. You know, they have a great deal of respect for each other; they feel safe. And, you know, our tagline, honor, connect, and heel, really says it all. Honor what they did, you know, their service and the sacrifices that they’ve made, you know, connect them, connect them with each other, connect them with communities and people who care, and of course, the great outdoors. And in that layering process is their healing component. Right? Because if you go back to, like, Vietnam, I was in the University of Wisconsin, as a freshman in, like, 1983. Okay, Saigon fell in 75. So, you know, at the time, it seemed like, it was a long distance between Vietnam and when I entered college, but it was like, seven, eight years, like, I look back on that I go, that was very fresh in the memory of the student body for sure. And I would wear my uniform on, you know, my ROTC uniform on campus every Thursday because that’s what the deal was. And I was called all kinds of names. And I know what happened to that generation when they came home. We all know what happened; it was sinful. And so, I thought, maybe I could do something, you know, that helped fix that, in a small way. And so that’s it.


Denis Phares  12:41

Yeah, that was on your mind that far back.


John McDaniel  12:43



Denis Phares  12:44

You were just getting into college.


John McDaniel  12:45

See, I’m still learning myself, like discovering, you know, when you asked me these questions, you don’t recall to mind certain things that, you know, are really deep, deep, deep-seated, you know, and that’s one of them, you know, that, you know, that memory of boy, you know, if you went off to a foreign country and fought, you know, for freedom somewhere, and you know, and then came back home, everything’s different. I promise you; everything’s different. The trip to the refrigerator is different.


Denis Phares  13:19

Well, you definitely have a level of peace and serenity in you. And it’s probably because you are very connected to your mission and purpose, you know, and you know, what it is? And that’s, I think, that’s great. And, you know, I can certainly relate to having a sense of mission and purpose that drove me to be doing what I’m doing now. And it’s really cool that we can align in some way anyway. So maybe we can talk about what we have done together. And the facility you put together up in Wisconsin is a completely off-grid facility, where wounded veterans can go up there and basically look for peace, achieve peace. Talk a little bit about that. That outfit and what we’ve, what we’ve been working on together, I guess.


John McDaniel  14:15

Well, I was on a mission. I don’t know where I was. I was someplace in middle America when I got a telephone call from my office, the foundation’s office headquarters. And my assistant said, you know, we’ve got, these guys rang up, they’re from this company called Dragonfly Energy, and their consumer product is this battery, this Battle Born Battery, this lithium-ion battery, and they want to talk to you. As a matter of fact, they want to become five-star sponsors. And I said, really? That’s okay, cool. So set it up. So, we had a teleconference, and I didn’t know who you were at all at the time. And I would say this goes back like, you know, we’re probably talking three years now, two and a half, I think. And so, I take the call, and Wade’s on. And, and he says to me, hey, I just got to tell you, we know what you’re doing, and we want to help you. Okay. And he introduced the company and your mission, and I was all ears. And then he said, “You know, we chose you because I went to high school with a guy by the name of Gabe Fierros. I said I know, Gabe. Okay, he’s one of my associates. I know him well. You know, it was back at the time when I was on every single mission. And I met Gabe in the state of Washington on a salmon fishing trip that we did. And we bunked together. So, you know, you get to know, and I always thought the world of Gabe, and I still do. He had a real calm personality. And you know, I like that, you know, it’s just a sense of calming, you have that same thing. You got that same trait.


Denis Phares  16:01

I work on it, you know?


John McDaniel  16:02

You do, and so did Gabe. So does Gabe. Anyway, Wade went to high school with Gabe, and Wade called Gabe and said, “Hey, I understand you’re a veteran.” “Yeah.” Hey, it’s been a long time since I chatted with you.” And he said, “We’re looking to connect with a veteran organization. Do you know any?” Gabe’s like, “As a matter of fact, I do.” Gabe’s been through our guide school and is one of our certified guides. We have a 10-day guide school, probably the finest one, you know, I think, in the nation, if not the world. And I can say that you know, that’s a bold statement. But it’s true. And Gabe’s been through that course and now performs these missions as I did, along with 21 other guides that we have. And so, anyway. So, your team’s like, “Okay, what can we do for you?” I said, “Why do I have this chunk of terrain in northern Wisconsin? It’s 410 acres of wild and remote property. And, you know, right now, I mean, it’s off-grid, but the only way it’s powered is by an 8k W generator. So here we are in this really remote site in northern Wisconsin, with a generator providing this power; it’s kind of putting the harsh on the mellow, you know, I mean, it’s really not the idea of unplugging. We didn’t always have to have a generator on, but you know, there are often times when we had to have it on. And so anyway, he said, “Well, we’d like to see that.” That’s perfect.


John McDaniel  17:28

And so not only did you guys show up, and I’ll talk about that because it takes a lot to impress me, but I was super impressed by your team. The professionalism, the precision, and of course, the end state, you know, the product and how well it performs. And so, anyway, he’s like, “Well, we’d like to fly in and do a site survey.” I said, “Perfect. I’ll meet you up there.” So, I went back up there, you guys flew in, and we went out to Camp Hackett. And there’s like three guys with measuring tapes. And you know, calculators, and they’re crawling all over the camp. And they’re there for, like, two or three hours, and they’re like, “Let’s go to lunch,” and I go, “That’s it?” They’re like, “That’s it.” So okay, fine. I was like, “Well, alright.” So we went to lunch, got back on a plane, and they flew away. And then about, I reckon, maybe a week or two later, they’re like, “Hey, what are you doing on this date?” And I go, “I can’t make it. But I’ll tell you where the hide-a-key is for camp. If you want to get in to open up camp and do your thing, absolutely. So, they said, “Perfect.” They showed up, and I think that team worked well into the night because I saw the video. Okay. And they’re taking videos. I remember seeing, we have an out shed, it’s an equipment shed, and they asked me, “Would you like to have lights go into that shed?” I said, “Absolutely, I would.”


John McDaniel  18:55

And actually, we have two sheds. If you could get lightning, you know, even if it’s a small little light bulb, it’d be great. You know, but you know, everything is wired, perfect. The lights work, the battery bank is there, it’s inside, and your whole system is there. And I mean, I liken it like to a special operations mission. You know, you came in, you did your thing, the clamshell opened, lots of stuff happened, the clamshell closed, and it went away. And things were different. And that’s what, that’s what your team did. It’s really super impressive. And I’ll tell you what’s happening up there now is that generator is just a backup, you know, on the days where it’s cloudy, you know, and you’re not getting solar power, you know, to recharge the batteries. That’s what that generator is now doing as opposed to a primary. It’s an alternate source when it’s required, and it’s not required very often. And so, you changed our life up there. And now you’re up there at Camp Hackett, the heroes are up there at Camp Hackett, and we’re off the grid and continue to be off the grid, and it’s quiet. And it’s just the way I always envisioned it. But I never envisioned it really being possible.


Denis Phares  20:09

I think that it was a personal thing for Wade too. You know, he definitely took the reins of that project, and he went up there. I think he brought his brother, some family, and some friends up there. And I remember that project; they were up late into the night; they were trenching. They were doing things that we don’t typically do when we’re putting batteries in RVs or boats. So, it was something that he definitely went above and beyond because he felt the mission himself, you know, Wade, who now is our Chief Revenue Officer, actually, so that that’s something that, you know, he’s always been demonstrating a high level of work ethic for us. So, yeah, we’re really proud of him. Yeah.


John McDaniel  20:48

And many others. I mean, I’ll tell you, you know, customer service is really everything, right? I mean, you got a great product. But, you know, to be able to pick up the phone and call somebody and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on.” I mean your team, you know, on the one or two occasions where we were trying to sort something out that we, that we just didn’t have the technical expertise to do. I mean, we’re soldiers, you know, I mean, we don’t understand, at least I don’t anyway, you know, how some of these complex systems work. So, but every time I picked up the phone to call somebody and say, “Hey, I need you to know this out or the other thing or explain this to me.” You guys are all over it. And, you know, that just doesn’t happen. I mean, you probably know that, but I’m gonna ask you, I mean, and I know it’s my interview, but I’m going to ask you, you know, how’d you do that? I mean, how did you create that culture? Because it’s not just one person, it’s everybody in this organization? You know, what have you done? I’m just curious, how did you influence to that level or instill that sort of, you know, commitment to customer service?


Denis Phares  22:03

Well, I do think it starts with the mission of the organization, and everyone’s buying into what we’re trying to do, which is to, you know, obviously, make energy storage more prevalent and have more, basically more, renewable energy powering what we do. That’s the mission of the company. At the same time. I think that problem solvers tend to be attracted to the company to what we’re doing. I think we like to be innovative, and we’d like to solve problems; what you presented to us was a great problem to try to solve with the tools that we have with our expertise. And you know, we just kind of, we took those reins, and you know, when people call in, it’s always a problem. It’s just like, “I’m trying to do this how do I how do I do this? “And so, our sales team, our technical support team, they’ll be like, “Alright, well, let me think about it. I’ve got these tools.” And so it’s kind of fun. I think, and I, you know, I think problem-solving is, is a big driver, the willingness to solve problems, the big driver behind that.


John McDaniel  23:07

Yeah, so you got a really great team.


Denis Phares  23:11

But I appreciate you saying that. I agree with you. I think our team is incredible. So, I’m fortunate.


John McDaniel  23:18

Well, you know, I always like to talk to leaders, you know, especially leaders of great teams, because there’s something there. I mean, it starts at the top; it certainly does. And I like to ask that question because, you know, I can always learn, you know, from people and try to talk about culture, right? You know, my organization has a culture; your organization has a culture. And as our organizations grow, I think the guys that are, and gals, that are in charge, in leadership positions, you know, that’s what I think a lot about, you know, how do I preserve, maintain, improve, and preserve the culture of the organization so that it continues to perform at high levels? That culture, you know, permeates your organization. But how do you do that?


Denis Phares  24:08

I think that you need to be engaged at all levels of the organization. I mean, I was personally out on the floor, assembling battery packs until pretty recently. Every now and then, I’ll try to get out there just to, you know, see what’s going on. You know, honestly, I wouldn’t help. You know, if I if I’m out there trying to make batteries, I’d probably get in the way at this point. But, you know, I do personally like to see, you know, the nitty gritty. When the technical sales team is working, they’ll often bring problems to me right outside my office, and I love to watch the marketing teamwork, for example, and things like this, this podcast. It’s just so much fun to be engaged and be involved in what’s going on at all levels of the organization. And I think when leadership shows that much interest in what everybody is doing, then that drives them to work even harder, and they want to, you know, they’re like, “Oh, wow, what I’m doing is important, and it does contribute to the mission.”


John McDaniel  25:05

Yeah, no, that’s a great answer. I think you’re right. It’s like, like, Camp Hackett. And I’m still the guy. I’m the original host, you know, now that we have, you know, some 50 other missions across the country, all basically modeling off of what I started in, you know, back in the 06 timeframe. And I still do it. Every fall, I go up to Camp Hackett, I’m the original guy serving these heroes, continue to serve them. And yeah, so there’s a lot of modeling happening. But if, if the boss is engaged, we used to call it the snowman model, right, in joint terms of, you know, joint warfighting terms, the snowman model, you have, you know, the tactical piece, which is the base, like the base of the snowman, then the middle part, you know, you would have the operational piece. And then at the top, the smaller head, the head unit, the strategic. So really, those are the three levels of operations that we see in a joint warfighting arena strategic, operational, and tactical. But if the boss started at the tactical side and worked his way up, and you know, is now still mostly focusing on strategic things, but dipping down occasionally into the operational arena, but then also doing the tactical piece, right, when people see that. And I think it’s important for leaders, you know, to do that.


Denis Phares  26:26

Yeah, that’s it, I love that analogy. That’s exactly right.


John McDaniel  26:30

So, you said it, and I just put it into words.


Denis Phares  26:34

You brought up the snowman.


John McDaniel  26:35

Yeah. That snowman. Absolutely.


Denis Phares  26:39

All right, well, just a few minutes left here; maybe we can wrap it up by talking about the future. Where do you go from here with your foundation?


John McDaniel  26:50

You know, I think the future of the organization, to be honest with you, Denis is, you know, continuing to refine what we’re doing, but reaching more. The Purple Heart community is a small community; there really, believe it or not, there aren’t that many of them. You know, and after World War Two, most of them have left us, you know, and we were serving, when I started 17 years ago, we had World War Two guys that were going on missions with us. And they’re mostly gone. And then and then it was the Korean War, heroes, and then, of course, Vietnam; those guys are still very much part of our mission, but they’re also, you know, aging. So, you know, I would love to work myself right out of a job where we didn’t have any more purple heart recipients. Nobody wants to, you know, see our men and women get wounded in combat. But, you know, this country has a tendency to war. You know, I mean, you can go back and in history, and every 15, 20 years, we’re back in the goo, you know, the global war on terror is not over. We’d like to think it is, but it’s not, you know, we are certainly engaged, you know, in many places throughout the world right now. It’s just not in the headlines, and it’s not, you know, force-on-force things that we typically think about as, you know, in-combat engagements. But, you know, I think when I look at, I say, okay, you know, my original idea for the foundation was to build these healing centers, you know, like American Disabilities Act-compliant healing centers, where we can get to that smaller population that really has mobility issues, the very severely wounded.


John McDaniel  28:41

And I would, and Camp Hackett’s going to be that model; originally, that was the idea. I didn’t think there would be other people that would be that interested in doing what we’re doing. So, I bought that property in northern Wisconsin, I was going to build an ADA-compliant healing center up there. And I was going to have four of them across the country. That was the original idea. And then when other people started reaching out to me saying, “Hey, I know what you’re doing, I want to help you.” Like it was really, as a business guy, it was immediately evident to me that I should pivot my model, like my thinking, because I could immediately triple. I mean, quadruple the number of heroes that I would serve. If other people grabbed on to this mission and did what I was doing, as opposed to building these healing centers, right? So, I kind of pivoted, and that’s what we started doing. But I’m not letting go of that idea. Like I will build an American Disabilities Act compliant, and we’re in the process of doing it now, on a smaller scale at Camp Hackett, you know, we have an ADA compliant bathroom now. And now the next piece is to add a birthing area where they can actually sleep because right now all the bunks are on the second floor, but we’re going to build that wing, you know, build a wing out of the bunkhouse so that, you know, wheelchair-bound heroes can be served at Camp Hackett. And once I do that, and people start seeing that, the light bulbs gonna go on across the country for the other mission sets and go, “Wow, I could do that.” And I think that’s really important. Because we’re not able to do it right now. You think I’ve done it personally, where I’ve gone, you know, one on one with a guy who is a spinal cord paralyzed veteran.


John McDaniel  30:22

But it’s super labor intensive, you know, I mean, everything is. And you began to think about, you know, all the challenges in friction associated with getting somebody who’s in a wheelchair on an airplane, as an example, and to the mission, and then, you know, performing mission, and then you know, having him or her go back to wherever they came from, and to do that transparently. Right, so they fit into the group without people going, you know, “Hey, I had to move the couch.” And we’ve tried it. And we’ve learned that it’s really difficult, unless you have a facility that’s American Disabilities Act compliant, to serve them. So that’s what that’s really the next level for the foundation, I think. But before we break, I want to, I want to do a little thing here. So, I’m going to pull this out of here. And this, this right here is our challenge coin, okay. And on one side of it is the Purple Heart. And there are dates on there; the first date is 1782. Okay. And the second date there is 1932, 150 years later, see, and pictured on the Purple Heart is George Washington. Okay. And so, George Washington used to issue enlisted men, officers didn’t get, a little piece of purple cloth that went on their uniform, and he did it for merit. Okay, so to be sure, men that were wounded under his charge were also given a piece of purple cloth. But it says, and to this day, it says on the back of the Purple Heart, if you get one of these, okay, and the only way you get one is by bleeding, you know, for our country essentially, while we’re wearing our uniform. On the back of the Purple Heart Medal, it says, “For merit”.


John McDaniel  32:15

And I remember seeing the first soldier, you know, my first unit, when we went to combat, that we had an award ceremony and we had 23 wounded in my unit and the first combat action I was ever in. And I watched this metal get pinned on some of these men, and I was like, it moved me. It moved me greatly. And so, the dates are important because, you know, 1782, of course, you know, George Washington, you know, as the commander. And 150 years later, General Douglas MacArthur turned it into the Purple Heart that we know today. So, it’s a very powerful metal, you know, and so it’s on one side of our challenge coin, the other side has our logo on it. But in military units, the challenge coin is kind of a cool thing. Because when you get to be in a unit, you get a coin and that’s unique to the unit. And what the guys all say is, you know, “Hey, don’t let me catch you in a bar. Okay, or anywhere else? Without your coin? Because you could do, you’re buying me a beer, right?” Guys get coined. Guys go into, you know, like that, and you’re like, you know if you don’t ever coin, you’re buying right.


John McDaniel  33:28

So, we used to carry these things too, you know, we used to carry our coins in our soap dish when we would go to the showers. Honest to God, so you didn’t get coined. People like to coin you in a shower. You’re like, “Ah, try me now.” Yeah. Anyway, so this one, the only way that people get this is by shaking my hand. Please shake my hand; that one’s yours. Okay, thanks for what you did for this organization and the heroes that we serve. It’s super impressive. And I’m honored to, you know, share this space with you. And I genuinely appreciate what you’ve done for our combat wounded.


Denis Phares  34:06

Thank you so much, John, and I will accept this on behalf of Dragonfly Energy on behalf of the folks in our organization. It’s been intense and an absolute pleasure having you on the podcast. Thank you so much.


John McDaniel  34:20

Absolutely. Thank you.


Denis Phares  34:22

Well, that’s gonna do it for this episode. I’d like to thank John McDaniel of the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation. Be sure to subscribe on any of your favorite podcast platforms.



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