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Producing Excellence

Capt. Lee Stuckey

Shorter, AL

AHERO Foundation

Type of Operation: Recreational therapy for military veterans

Size of Operation: 450 veterans served

In Business Since: 2010

Farm Credit Partner: Alabama Ag Credit

After overcoming a near-suicide attempt highly decorated Marine Capt. Lee Stuckey put the 100-acre rural property he’d purchased with financing from Alabama Ag Credit to a new use: providing a safe place for other veterans suffering the after effects of their war experiences to relax and heal.

Still actively serving, U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Lee Stuckey’s military service has been one of great valor. He’s been awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in Iraq, a Bronze Star, U.S. Navy and Marine Corps commendation medals with a “V” Device for actions of valor during combat, an Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal and a Combat Action Ribbon, among others. But those decorations came at a high cost.

“I got to a point one night [where] I didn’t want to live anymore,” Stuckey recalls. Luckily a timely call from his mother saved him and he got the rehabilitation he needed.

After his near-suicide experience, Stuckey discovered that spending time on his land was therapeutic, and he realized that if outdoor therapy worked for him, it just might work for veterans suffering the same feelings.

Stuckey began reaching out and discovered other veterans still dealing with the trauma of war. Recognizing that many would never seek treatment – half of the 300,000 U.S. veterans suffering from PTSD don’t – he invited some of them to hunt and fish with him on his farm. From that point forward, he realized that his best therapy was to give back to others like him by spending time with them and talking about the things he’d been through. The combination of open discussions and a weekend spent hunting and fishing proved to be the ideal antidote to a very real problem.

“I bring Veterans in and make an intentional effort to share my story so they’ll open up about what they’re experiencing,” he says.

In 2010, Stuckey organized AHERO Foundation — an acronym for America’s Heroes Enjoying Recreation Outdoors — to provide others with a way to support the cause, with 100 percent of donations going directly to the cause. A HERO now hosts several annual events, including a duck hunt in Arkansas, a deer hunt in Shorter, Ala. each January, a guided hunt in South Africa every March, an Alabama turkey hunt in April and a deep sea fishing trip every August in Pensacola, Fla.

He describes AHERO as a judgment-free zone. “These guys aren’t lepers, they’re not weak,” he says. “They’re just guys going through a lot of difficult experiences. And if they’re dealing with these kinds of issues, it just means they’re human.”

Stuckey has since worked with Alabama Ag Credit to expand his acreage with hopes to build a year-round lodge so the organization can support more veterans as they deal with the aftermath of their war experiences.

Download a PDF version of this story here.