Mission Veteran Expedition is anticipated to provide closure and rediscovery for veterans who served in Vietnam during times of conflict. On November 4, Vietnam veterans from various branches depart on an expedition that promises to offer an extraordinary opportunity for reflection, remembrance, and closure, both individually and collectively. Led by Waypoint Vets, participating veterans will experience a guided retreat exploring Vietnam’s monuments, museums, and landscapes. Veterans helping veterans, the participants are expected to emerge from the experience with strengthened bonds and a shared commitment to navigating the impacts and effects of their journey together.
Waypoint Vets, a veteran-run 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to uniting veterans through camaraderie and adventure. The organization has quickly gained momentum, providing unique experiences that blend mental and physical challenges with the serenity of nature to deliver lasting healing to veterans, all at no cost to them. Waypoint Vets has made significant strides in combating post-traumatic stress, military sexual trauma, and suicidal ideation nationwide, serving veterans from all branches, nationalities, creeds, ages, and walks of life.
Sarah Lee, an Army Combat Veteran and the Founder/Executive Director of Waypoint Vets has embarked on a remarkable journey in both her military service and her mission to unite and empower veterans. Her story began when she joined the military at the age of 17, serving for 8 years under the 612th, 216th, and 112th Combat Engineers. Her pivotal moment came in 2019 when she founded Waypoint Vets, inspired by a 4,010-mile coast-to-coast cycling journey dedicated to post-war healing. In under three years, Waypoint Vets has executed 22 national adventures, providing lasting healing and support to over 250 honorably discharged at-risk military veterans across nearly 40 states.
For Joe Makouske, his journey with Waypoint Vets began when a friend overheard Sarah in a cafe, leading him to take her canyoneering in Zion. He bonded with Sarah over their aspirations to unite veterans and their shared passion for adventure. Joe was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, serving in Combat Logistics Battalion 5 as Battalion Intelligence Officer, and Motor Transport Platoon Commander during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Joe will help guide the upcoming Mission Veteran Expedition, making it his tenth Waypoint Vets trip.
The heart of Waypoint Vets lies in connecting veterans, with adventure serving as a bridge to create these vital connectionsJoe Makouske
Also joining the trip is Lore Harmon. Lore spent 32 years in the Army as a Military Police, Operations NCO, and Drill Sergeant, with four combat tours to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait. In 2021, while Lore was a participant at Waypoint Vet’s Lake Powell Canyoneering trip, she had a moment in nature that changed and saved her life.
I would have never experienced it if I had not felt that I was in a safe place to let go of demons. That’s what Waypoint Vets provides.Lore Harmon
Shortly after the trip, Lore was brought on as the Operations Manager, and to date, has been part of the team for 16 National Adventures.
Adventures with Waypoint Vets often mirror the experiences in the military, involving risk and reliance on those around you. The organization’s mission to “Honor the Fallen by Living” serves as a compass for those who may have doubted their will to live, offering a sense of purpose and hope.
Joe explained the upcoming trip’s three-fold goal, focusing on building connections, confronting the realities of war, and balancing the confrontation of memories with a redefinition of Vietnam. This thoughtful approach aims to help Vietnam veterans redefine their associations with the country while providing opportunities for processing their experiences.
My hope is that they feel a piece of the debt we all carry has been repaid simply by paying their respects on this soilSarah Lee
The expedition challenges the suppression of emotions and encourages participants to embrace the support they offer each other. The focus is on meeting each participant exactly where they are, acknowledging their unique journeys.
Waypoint Vets gives our brothers and sisters a place and environment to work as a team again, to be pushed mentally and physically, to rediscover that bond that is unconditional and natural, and to be in a safe place with others who understand the war within.Lore Harmon
The impact of the Mission Veteran Expedition extends beyond the participating Vietnam veterans, leaving a lasting impression on the broader veteran community. Waypoint Vets is dedicated to reminding veterans that the camaraderie they crave still exists, and it is attainable and instant.
Serving as an inspirational example, demonstrating the bravery and willingness of veterans to confront their past and heal, even decades later.”Joe Makouske
The support from industry carriers, companies, employers, and supporters is a testament to this fact. As the trip leader, Sarah Lee emphasizes that employers and leaders genuinely care about veterans’ well-being, which is a testament to the camaraderie that exists within the transportation industry, akin to the military bond.
Veterans, as trip leader and liaison for the planning of this trip, I can say with conviction that your employers and leadership genuinely care about your well-being. It has been an absolute honor to work with the transportation leaders, owners, drivers, and industry community!Sarah Lee
This unique blend of support and connection promises to have a profound and lasting impact on the community.
Supporting Waypoint Vets and its mission is an opportunity to be part of a movement with unwavering dedication. Waypoint Vets maintains a commitment to transparency, sincerity, and character, with 100% of donations going directly toward veteran adventures. Donations can be made securely at www.WaypointVets.org.
Additional support, such as Walmart, Amazon, and Visa gift cards, can be mailed to P.O. Box 118, Whites Creek, TN 37189. For those interested in sponsoring a veteran or one of Waypoint Vets’ National Adventures, contact Sarah Lee at [email protected].