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Meet Jessica Merritt of The Special Liberty Project

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jessica Merritt.

Jessica, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
It all began about two years ago when my husband Cory Merritt, had the opportunity to take a combat wounded veteran on a local weekend hunting trip.

The day after the hunt, I received a call from the Veteran’s wife thanking us for taking him out in the field. She said that getting back out in nature with other Veterans was exactly what he needed in his life. He had been struggling with some issues, she informed me that both of their lives were positively impacted by the event. At that point, I was completely on board. There was a need that we could dedicate an entire organization to. The next day we started the non-profit paperwork and shortly after we were out in the field with 5 Veterans on our first Special Liberty Project adventure.

Our goal was to host four events the first year, we surpassed that by hosting 11! By taking Veterans on outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, hunting and fishing, they are able to return home refreshed and recharged. These events were truly life-changing for some of our Veterans. We have been incredibly blessed by some of the Veterans who we served in the past, they have been so positively impacted that they came back to us and want to volunteer with the organization to give back to their brothers and sisters in arms.

During my husband’s last deployment, with the help of some great volunteers, I ran two hunting trips for our Veterans. During the events, I noticed how my own children were drawn to this amazing group of men. They needed more in their lives than what mom could offer, they needed a mentor. The Special Liberty Project has always welcomed Gold Star Families with open arms, but because of what I had seen in our own personal family life, this inspired me to create a program focused on giving back to Gold Star Kids by partnering them up with Veterans.

Gold Star Families will never have the luxury of another homecoming, they will not be able to enjoy fun family outings together such as hiking or camping. We created a mentoring program, “Gold Star Corps” where Gold Star Kids will be guided by Veterans through outdoor, educational, fun quarterly events. The first event will take place on June the 9th at the Lake Poway Archery Range.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
We have been so humbled by the amazing community support we have received. The biggest struggle has been finding the time to dedicate to running the organization, especially while my husband is deployed. We now have many volunteers and I’m beyond thankful for the help! We are also always on the hunt for private ranches that would allow us to host an event, as well as funding.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Special Liberty Project – what should we know?
The Special Liberty Project is a 501 (c)(3) organization dedicated to serving ill and injured veterans, their families and Gold Star Families by getting them back in the great outdoors. We host outdoor adventures such as hiking, camping, hunting and fishing, everything is provided, all of the gear is taken care of, all of the meals and snacks are provided, participants just need to show up, relax and have fun. We are proud to serve Veterans, their families and Gold Star Families because we appreciate how much they have given to us and our country.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
My husband Cory Merritt is the man behind the dream. He had an idea and we ran with it and never looked back. I’m the lady behind the scenes doing all of the nitty-gritty work to make things happen.

We have an amazing team of volunteers who help in numerous ways, from web design, guiding hunts, organizing fundraisers and speaking at events. Kaleb Weakley, Chris Gibson and Aaron Hoye have been a huge help from the very beginning and we would not be here without them!

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