Ronny Sweger is on a mission.
His mission took shape and became clear after he was medically retired from the Army in 2009.
“I had troubles and hid for about four years,” he said.
In search of help and resources for his own internal battles, Sweger volunteered with several agencies to assist veterans.
“I worked for several organizations, but in doing so, I became aware that there was very little to help those who served in special forces,” he said.
As a former Green Beret, Sweger knew first-hand the sacrifices made by the military’s elite. He explained that the men and women who sacrificed mentally and physically in these units often fall through the cracks of the many benefits available to Purple Heart recipients.
“If you’re not wounded and earning that Purple Heart medal, then you don’t qualify for 95 percent of the benefits available,” he said. “We were trained to expect to be wounded.”
Sweger said special forces often operate under extreme secrecy and many times are the first boots on the ground.
With the need evident to help the guys he fought along side, he decided to create an organization that caters specifically to these “exceptional warriors.”
Sweger teamed up with co-founders Bill Kolb and Mark Nutsch and launched The F.E.W. in December 2012.
“The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors (F.E.W.) is a nonprofit organization that proactively and directly serves ‘Exceptional Warriors’ who as ‘Quiet Professionals’ epitomize honor, valor, service and sacrifice,” he said.
Their mission statement reads: “The F.E.W. will assist in the healing process of the families and veterans of Special Operations Forces, those recognized for valorous actions, and also those wounded in combat; regardless of era, by providing customizable therapeutic recreational and sporting events, at both the local and national levels, to enhance their mental and physical health and to better allow for successful reintegration with their family and community.”
The foundation works to provide recreational therapy for this elite group of veterans. It also networks to provide additional resource options.
“These guys are adventure-based people,” Sweger said. The foundation has taken groups skydiving, scuba diving, power boat racing, hunting, fishing and other adventures.
“I use the adventure as the bait to get these guys out there,” he said. The events give the veterans a chance to meet others like them.
One veteran said: “When we leave the military, we leave our unit and we lose our mission. A tight knit group of buddies, keeping each others’ backs. What I saw and found by participating with The F.E.W. was a new form of unit camaraderie. At the end of the event, I found it hard to leave. I am so grateful for an organization like The F.E.W. If the Foundation helped me, I know it can and will help others. I now want to give back to my fellow veterans as well. I actually feel alive again. It’s been 10 long, hard years since I went to war, it has been with me every day since.”
The F.E.W. was out in full force last Saturday night at Salina Highbanks Speedway. Veterans were the honored guests at the racetrack.
A large tent outside the track provided guests with free watermelon and sodas.
In addition to The F.E.W., there were representatives from Blue Star Moms, The Military Order of the Purple Heart, Disabled American Veterans, Folds of Honor and the Green Beret Foundation.
Operating completely on donations and volunteers, Sweger and his team work hard to get the word out about the foundation, which has a full calendar of events for these “Exceptional Warriors.”
“We’re taking a group of eight guys to Michigan to go deer hunting next week and the week after there is a group of 16 warriors going dove hunting in Vinita,” he said.
Sweger said Oklahoma is fantastic in their support of veterans across the board.
“Here in Oklahoma we are very blessed,” he said. “We are indeed in the Heartland. People here really care and show their support.”
To find out more information on The F.E.W., or to donate time or money, log onto their Web site at www.exceptionalwarriors.org or call (918) 824-1094.