By DAN FOX
Six veterans from the interior of Alaska will be visiting Skagway in September for an event hosted by Mission Objective Outdoors (MOO) and Elks Lodge #431.
MOO was started by local veterans David Moncibaiz and Brian Leipold with the goal of helping disabled veterans share in their love of the outdoors.
MOO treasurer Chezare Leipold said many of Moncibaiz and Brian’s veteran friends have dealt with depression, and even suicidal thoughts.
Moncibaiz and Brian both work at Border & Customs Protection, and over the winter both veterans had talked about an idea for a non-profit Moncibaiz that had always wanted to set up.
Brian said he and Chezare had harbored similar ambitions when they lived in Florida.
“We kind of just figured ‘hey, let’s go with it, lets start it,’” Brian said.
Moncibaiz and Brian were both wounded in the line of duty, which Brian said brings a number of difficulties into everyday life.
“Just being so young and having different pains that you shouldn’t in your mid to late 30s,” Brian said. “Sometimes just getting up from bed. I know both Dave and I, having been deployed in combat zones, different stuff – you might have heard from other veterans, fireworks or other stuff like that just kind of brings back some anxiety.
“Truth be told, up here in Alaska, Skagway specifically, it’s just so much quieter…the anxiety just kind of disappears, at least for me.”
When the six invited veterans come to town, Brian said the activities will need to suit the capabilities of their guests.
“If they all can go on some of these trails, cool, we’re talking about trying to get them out on a fishing charter whether it’s here or down in Haines if they are able to,” Brian said. “We don’t want to put them out of their comfort zone, but also we kind of want to push them a little bit and just show them how good it can be up here.”
So far he said the community has provided a lot of support for the idea. A number of local outfits have offered to donate tours to the visiting veterans, and the Klondike Brewing Company is donating a portion of proceeds from its MOOTip Whipsaw Spruce Tip Bier to MOO.
Transportation for the six veterans’ September trip to Skagway is being paid for by a grant from the Alaska State Elks Association, and MOO will be holding a raffle drawing on Aug. 31 to cover the remainder of the costs.
Tickets for the raffle are $100, with two $5,000 prizes awarded to winners.
A welcome banquet and reception will be held at the Elks Lodge on Sept. 15 for the visiting veterans; all local veterans are invited to attend.
Volunteers and help with transportation are still needed. To volunteer, call the Elks Lodge at (907) 983-2335.
“Dave and Brian have said numerous times that it’s all about the veterans losing their will to just want to continue, and getting them just up and out, and taking a breath of fresh air can bring that back,” Chezare said. “Making a difference in one person’s life is all they really want to do.”