By Jennie Zeitler, Staff Writer
Patrick McCaffrey gave his life for his country while deployed to Iraq. His mother, Nadia, founded the Patrick McCaffrey Foundation to honor her son by helping veterans find resources to heal.
Eagle’s Nest was the vision of Melony Butler, military wife and Blue Star mother of three soldiers. That vision can be traced to a promise Butler made to her stepfather when she was 12 years old.
“He was a Vietnam veteran and I promised I would not let other veterans suffer by not having the resources they needed to heal,” Butler said.
That promise was reinforced after one of Butler’s sons returned from Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal, and unable to find help.
“One day he called me to say goodbye, and it was by the grace of God that my husband and his battle buddies found him,” said Butler. “The St. Cloud Veterans Affairs (VA) Hospital told him they wouldn’t have space for 36 days, and to use outside resources.”
Her efforts to help her son spurred Butler to obtain a degree in psychology, and helped form the vision for Eagle’s Nest.
Butler was taking soldiers into her home and fielding phone calls asking how soon the facility would be open, when she called the St. Cloud VA and was referred to the McCaffrey Foundation.
McCaffrey and Butler joined forces this spring, and Eagle’s Nest is fast becoming a reality. “Nadia decided that we’re ‘Moms on a mission,’” said Butler.
“More has been accomplished in the last 30 days than in the previous four years,” said Vietnam veteran Mike Weisser, now vice president of the McCaffrey Foundation.
“Moms don’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” Butler said. “A mom’s determination is unstoppable.”
Weisser filed the paperwork registering the McCaffrey Foundation in Minnesota, as well as in California, where it was
“Eagle’s Nest will give soldiers a place to heal with honor. They will be shown how to find a productive purpose in their lives,” said Weisser.
PTSD often goes hand-in-hand with substance abuse. “The trust is often not there for treatment resources, so the vet won’t obtain services,” said Butler. “The usual resources are often overloaded or unavailable. Then the veteran tends to self-medicate.”
What happens at Eagle’s Nest will remain completely confidential. “We want to build that trust with veterans,” Butler said. “This is a place for soldiers to come and heal among their own.”
There are nine residential cottages currently on the property, and a number of service buildings. The stable will soon be filled with tack and 11 horses donated by rodeo circuit riders from Minnesota, Montana and Texas.
Nadia’s passion of a self-sustaining organic garden will feed residents, and any surplus will be sold. Farmers Veteran Coalition, based in California, will provide equipment, seed and instruction.
Courses will be offered for vets to obtain their General Educational Development (GED), as well as associate degree classes through a Minnesota State Colleges and University (MNSCU) institution.
There will be an industrial arts building where vets can learn a trade.
The chapel will be used for nondenominational services given by visiting pastors.
Cedar Hill Design Center in Texas has offered to refurbish one of the cottages into family suites.
“This is a national project, and we will accept vets from all over the country,” said Weisser. “No one will be turned away.”
“We hope to never again attend a funeral for another soldier who died because he or she did not have the resources to recover,” Butler said.
Eagle’s Nest will be hosting an “Extreme Home Makeover — Military Style” from June 22-24. Volunteers are asked to bring cleaning products and other materials necessary to clean two buildings. Also needed are tree and shrub trimming equipment and other lawn care supplies. Painters should bring brushes, rollers and any other materials. Plumbers are needed.
Blue Star mothers from across Minnesota will be serving a hearty meal each day about 1 p.m.
Eagle’s Nest is located at 310 Highway 71 S., Sauk Centre, MN 56378.
For more information, contact Melony Butler at (218) 371-1570 or [email protected] or Mike Weisser at (760) 963-0352.