Hobgood helps veterans connect with outdoor experiences
FREDERICKSBURG, Va. – Cherokee Nation citizen Joshua Hobgood has been awarded this year’s Seven Feathers award in the health category for his efforts to connect military veterans via outdoor activities with his nonprofit organization.
Having served five years in the Marine Corps, Hobgood said he had a desire to connect with other veterans after leaving the military. He started Black Dog Hunting in 2018 to cater to the mental health and well-being of veterans.
“In researching a name for the organization, the black dog internationally is regarded as a metaphor for mental health,” Hobgood said. “It was actually made famous by Sir Winston Churchill. During World War II, he used it to describe his own struggles with ill mood and depression.”
Hobgood said they use the black dog metaphor to champion a cause of getting veterans together with their peers in group-based experiences in the outdoors.
During his five-year service, Hobgood served as a military policeman at Camp Fuji in Japan, and as a Marine security guard for the American Consulate in Pakistan and the American Embassy in Denmark.
“Since separating from the military, I’ve always had a desire to connect with other veterans,” he said. “I was introduced to waterfowl hunting, which is hunting for ducks and geese, in late 2017. I found it as a very cathartic experience, as a healing type of experience that I wanted to share so I used waterfowl hunting as kind of a nexus to start the organization.”
Hobgood said his organization uses outdoor activities such as hunting and fishing to get veterans conversing with each other and possibly mentor or counsel each other through shared experiences.
“These are veterans who are Vietnam-era veterans to actively serving military members,” Hobgood said. “And they can really mentor and counsel each other when it comes to what are the hardships you’ve experienced in your services, your separation and your transition.”
He said the older veterans have a chance to mentor younger veterans while younger veterans can give new perspectives to those who have been out of service for years.
The hunting program focuses on waterfowl hunting at partnering outfitters in Oklahoma and Louisiana, and the fishing program takes veteran groups to fishing charters in Washington, Louisiana and Florida.
FowlCo Outfitters in Garber, Oklahoma, owned by Josh Teff, is a supporter of veteran organizations and has established a relationship with Black Dog Hunting.
“Our place is really relationship driven anyway so it was a natural fit for us when the veterans showed up,” Teff said. “Their walls kind of came down once they realized they were among people that cared genuinely about their well-being and about getting to know them.”
A third program called the social program centers on events such as festivals, feasts and concerts in the Fredericksburg area.
Hobgood said the intent of the trips and activities is not just to enjoy the outdoors.
“About the second day they realize what the actual intent of the trip is and they see the value in simply connecting with other veterans from other services, from other eras,” he said. “It’s a lightbulb moment for everyone, for the guides and outfitters, for the veterans themselves or just the general public who has the opportunity to observe our mission. That underlying foundation of peer-based mentoring and counseling I think sets us apart.”
For information, visit www.blackdoghunting.org
The Cherokee Phoenix will host the second annual Seven Feathers Awards Gala virtually at 6 p.m. on Dec. 12 on its Facebook page.