Lancer Legacy Ranch building a brighter future for veterans

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By Heather Russell
Staff Reporter

The former Northeast Texas Restitution Center in Maud, Texas has a new name and a new mission.  The 25,000 square foot, sixteen room facility sitting on seventeen acres is the new home of the Lancer Legacy Ranch, a non-profit organization committed to offering housing, peer counseling, and employment services to veterans in need of a hand up.  The facility can house up to twenty four veterans at one time, and also boasts a workshop, baseball field, basketball court, and a covered pavilion.

Currently, Lancer Legacy Ranch is home for four veterans who are all working to complete remodel and construction projects for the facility’s grand opening fundraiser event on April 7, 2018.  Adam, an Army veteran and full-time student, says the ranch is giving him much more than a place to stay.  “I’ve been without a job for a year and a half while I finish school, so to get out here and be able to do something meaningful gives me a sense of worth that I was missing before.  It also gives me a chance to help out guys who have some of the same issues I do.”
Mike Pickerel, Deputy Director and full time resident of the ranch agrees whole-heartedly.  After four years in the Marine Corps and eleven years in the Army, the combat veteran found himself, along with his two sons, homeless and with few resources available to them.  “One thing that a lot of people have forgotten is the difficulty of the transition back to civilian life after being in the military.  Having a mission, having a place, being a part of something bigger than you, then coming back home - especially from deployment - and having to be a father and a husband is hard.  From dodging bullets to paying bills - it’s not an easy transition.”
Lancer Legacy Ranch is the brainchild of Army veteran Matthew Fisk.  As a member of the Lancer Battalion, his platoon was ambushed in Sadr City, Iraq, on April 4, 2004 in what was later dubbed “Black Sunday.”  Seven American soldiers lost their lives that day, including the gunner in Fisk’s transport vehicle, Sgt. Yihjyh “Eddie” Chen.  Fisk, who himself suffered from PTSD, says offering help to veterans in need is his way of honoring his friend Eddie Chen and the others who made the ultimate sacrifice.  “One day I realized that all my anger over the survivor’s guilt was nothing more than me being ungrateful for the gift that I had, that cost someone else everything.  So when I realized that what I had was a gift, and it was my responsibility to make the most of that gift, it kind of changed my perspective,” said Fisk.  “I don’t owe my life to Eddie and the six other guys that died trying to save my life but it is a gift, and I want to honor their sacrifice rather than waste it or squander it.  I’m just doing what I can to try to honor those men, and their families, and their stories.”  
Fisk wrote a book detailing the Black Sunday battle, as well as his struggles to re-acclimate to civilian life entitled Black Knights, Dark Days: The True Story of Sadr City’s Black Sunday, which can be purchased from most major online retailers. 

Funding for the ranch at this time consists mainly of donations, and Fisk says they accept donations of any kind.  Monetary donations can be made to their GoFundMe account at www.gofundme.com/lancer-legacy-ranch.  Sponsorship opportunities are available for businesses or individuals who wish to pledge full or partial payment of ranch utilities.  Clothing, furniture, toiletries, and household items, are all welcome to be dropped off at the ranch, as well as food and services.  Those who are skilled at carpentry or construction are welcome to volunteer their time to help prepare the ranch for its April Grand Opening.

If you or someone you know needs the services of Lancer Legacy Ranch, or to donate or volunteer, call Director Matt Fisk at (706)662-7751 or (903)748-5706 or email at j.matthew.fisk.@outlook.com or visit their website at www.lancerlegacyranch.com.
 

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