Outdoor Odyssey, a Pennsylvania camp that helps wounded warriors and military personnel transition into civilian life, is located at the end of the line for Somerset Rural Electric Cooperative. But shared goals between the camp and the co-op help bridge that distance.
“There’s one electric line that runs up the mountain and we’re up here as far as you can get,” said Brandon Jones, operations director at Outdoor Odyssey. “There’s a mile-long road to get to us, and if power goes out or there’s a tree down, the co-op knows we have a big operation going so they get to us as quickly as they possibly can.”
Jones’ father, Maj. Gen. Thomas S. Jones, acquired the former Boy Scouts of America facility in 1999 to launch a mentorship program for disadvantaged youth. Gen. Jones, who retired as the U.S. Marine Corps’ commander of training and education in 2006, is an active supporter of the Wounded Warrior Program and hosts several Semper Fi Odyssey camp sessions each year to help Marines leaving active duty transition to civilian life.
“That program deals with life management plans, post-traumatic stress disorder, leadership development and adapting military skills to meet civilian job needs,” said Brandon Jones, who has run the camp for 19 years. “We run six Semper Fi Odyssey sessions a year outside of our summer season, which focuses on mentor programs for disadvantaged youth.”
The Marine Corps motto, Semper Fi, short for Semper Fidelis, is Latin for “Always Faithful”—a fitting way to characterize the Boswell, Pennsylvania, camp’s relationship with Somerset, Pennsylvania-based Somerset REC.
“They know we work with a lot of local kids free of charge, so when we need utility poles set for some of our adventure elements, they’ve come out, drilled the holes and set the poles,” said Jones.
When producers for Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” contacted the camp about building a facility to help with its military veteran outreach work in time for its Sept. 28 episode, “Semper Fi in the Sky,” the Jones family quickly got Somerset REC involved.
“They had some poles that fit the bill and donated them,” said Jones. “The poles would have cost us several hundred dollars each, and the labor to drill and set them over an entire day saved us several thousand dollars.”
Besides helping hundreds of wounded warriors and veterans, the Semper Fi Tree House now serves as a focal point for many of the camp’s programs throughout the year, said Jones.
Somerset REC General Manager Ruston Ogburn and his staff are always happy to help out, especially because of the camp’s commitment to disadvantaged youth and military families.
“Like many of our members, Gen. Jones has found ways to continue his service to our country and our community,” said Ogburn. “We are happy to help when we find members who are committed to making a difference.”
Derrill Holly is a staff writer for NRECA.