Singularly devoted to ill and injured service members, Patriot Point is the light at the end of the tunnel for our American treasure
Written by JOE WILLEY | Photography by JILL JASUTA
Rural Dorchester County, Maryland, with its miles of snaking shoreline bordered by humble marshes and fertile fields waving in the brackish breeze, is known for its relaxed pace and natural beauty. It is quiet but pulsing with the movement of tides and wildlife — a place to breathe slowly and deeply. It is also home to one of the premier facilities providing a time to heal for our nation’s wounded, ill and injured service members and their families and caregivers.
Patriot Point was founded in 2016 with a mission of helping our nation’s heroes heal through outdoor recreation and connecting one on one. The mission is readily fulfilled on the property’s 290 acres and over two miles of shoreline that hugs Slaughter Creek at the far western point of the county, near Taylors Island. The property was owned previously by the late Jim Bugg, a founder of the Grand National Waterfowl Association and chairman of the Yellow Ribbon Fund. Bugg was an avid sportsman who informally hosted wounded service members and high-profile visitors on the property for hunting and relaxation when it was named Poverty Point.
Vice President of Operations and Development Hugh Middleton guides the day-to-day operations with a focused vision and passion. Middleton is a former Navy SEAL who after his retirement worked with various defense contractors before being introduced to Patriot Point. He understands from experience the need for injured and ill service members to reconnect with others after dark and often grueling days. Patriot Point provides the space for them to begin the journey. “It is important to get here and roam around,” he said with a knowing and appreciative smile.
The need for a facility like Patriot Point is greater now than in earlier generations because of the increased survival rates from battlefield injuries. Many wounds that would have caused death in the WWII era are now treated successfully. Consequently, more modern-day seriously wounded service members go home to recover. The U.S. is now managing long-term support of those with serious physical and emotional ailments in ways never experienced before. Still, the scars remain. Patriot Point helps them heal.
Outdoor recreation is the primary way guests begin their recoveries. The property is a Regulated Shooting Area, with mallards raised for waterfowl hunting. Acres of milo are grown as feed for the ducks. After the hunts, guests can prepare the birds for dinner. Middleton explains in clear terms the beauty and simplicity of hunting your food. “You shoot; you clean; you eat,” he said. There is fishing, too. Perch are caught in Patriot Pond, while rockfish and Atlantic croaker are caught from one of the two piers jutting into Slaughter Creek. Raised-bed vegetable farming and oyster beds are possible additions. It will be an immersive farm-to-table experience.
A fundamental component of the healing and recovery process for Patriot Point guests involves outdoor recreation. Duck-hunting for mallards and fishing for rockfish and Atlantic croaker are but two of the restorative processes. Former Navy SEAL Hugh Middleton, above, is Patriot Point’s Vice President of Operations and Development.
There are recreational activities available on-site, as well as additional ones that can be arranged for guests. An impressive gym with a dramatic waterfront view is open 24 hours a day. But for some, it is the quiet confines of the guest rooms or the porch of the main house that begins the first step toward healing. Middleton lets the guest steep in the silence and does not pry into their experiences. He sees his role as simply being available. “I let people talk” is how he describes his essential yet hands-off approach. There is also something about the property that affects a change soon after the guests arrive. Joy Losciale, Event and Guest Coordinator, echoes what is often said: “Within an hour, you can see them relax. You can see the change.” The profound sense of peace that she witnessed motivated her to relocate from Virginia’s Back Bay area. “I’m all in,” she succinctly said.
Though society can never fully repay the debt it owes to our brave men and women in the military, Patriot Point’s dedicated volunteers and donors are driven by the desire to say “Thank you!”
Losciale’s attitude is reflective for anyone who understands the service Patriot Point provides. Most Americans have never faced the danger that many service members have endured. Few carry the scars as a constant reminder of loyalty. Those who volunteer and financially support Patriot Point show their patriotism through serving, a way to pay a debt owed to those who have made great sacrifices for their country and their neighbors.
As the blurring speed of life continues to increase, there is often frustration that the healing of body and mind should be nearly instantaneous, as well. Patriot Point takes another tack, understanding that slowing down to connect the wounded with their families, caregivers and peers can be the beginning of healing. The guests seem to know that, too, and are thankful. Middleton understands. “The only complaint I get is that people don’t want
To learn more about Patriot Point, and to donate to its mission, visit PatriotPoint.org. CS