South Central VA Health Care Network
VISN 16 supports Dixie Challenge 2017 in Miss.
CANTON, Miss.—Dixie Challenge III was held in Canton, for the third straight year, recently. Dixie Challenge is a program designed for Veterans, and provides skills in basic horsemanship, roping, and cow working.
The South Central VA Health Care Network (VISN 16) and the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center attended the three-day event. The VA staff provided health care services and leadership was given a rare opportunity observing the successful program that reestablishes self-confidence and emotional stability, while promoting morale and teamwork.
“I am so proud this event takes place in Mississippi, and provided me the opportunity to witness amazing accomplishments, by our Veterans,” said Dr. Skye McDougall, VISN 16 Network Director. “It was amazing watching the progress from each day, up to the final events. You can’t help but smile and be proud that organizations like this exist for our Veterans. I was honored to attend, and see our Jackson VA providing medical services, if a Veteran needed any care.”
The event is part of the Semper Fi Fund’s Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program. Several Mississippi businesses, and the Mississippi Quarter Horse Association, to include local volunteers, partner to ensure a successful event. Top local restaurants catered meals, and one business donated cowboy boots selected by the Veterans. Sixteen Veterans, representing different parts of the country, participate in the Dixie Challenge each year.
“So many Veterans are ill or injured after they leave the military,” said John Mayer, Foreman for the Jinx McCain Horsemanship Program, and U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. “Our goal is to show Veterans they have great ability and that life, although challenging, is fun. Many Veterans forget they still have purpose, and we are committed to showing them opportunities, and bring back camaraderie and spirit.”
The Veterans received guidance from some of Mississippi’s top trainers, and on the third day, they put their new skills to the test. Following a friendly competition that displayed their ability to maneuver and communicate with the horse, herd cattle, and rope a calf, they were awarded medals, brilliant belt buckles, and boot spurs.
“Riding horses and moving cows is one thing, but the real purpose of our horsemanship program is to help our Veterans find their purpose in life again” said Mayer. “It is great to have the VA nearby. The support this weekend, by the VA, shows the broader reach of the Dixie Challenge. These men and women served their country, and America does its part to provide them a VA, [and the VA] makes it a point to be part of their lives.”
The Jackson VAMC provided onsite medical support, if needed, using its mobile medical unit throughout the Dixie Challenge. VISN leadership and facility staff, to include mental health providers, were honored to meet and observe the Veterans accomplishing tasks for the first time in their lives.