Retreat for veterans set to open in Ruskin - FOX 13 News

Retreat for veterans set to open in Ruskin

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Army specialist Corey Kowall was only five weeks into his first tour of Afghanistan when he was killed. He was on patrol in the gun turret of the armored vehicle he was riding in when the driver swerved to avoid what appeared to be a roadside bomb.

The vehicle rolled over three times, and that quickly, Corey's life was over. He was only 20 years old.

"I had a peer mentor when my son died and I know how helpful it was to be able to reach out and talk to somebody," said Kelly Kowall, as she recalled the days and months following the horrible accident of September 20, 2009.

Now more than three years later, Kelly has embarked on her own journey built on grief and recovery. She is in the process of rehabbing a dilapidated waterfront trailer park in Ruskin, Florida to create a retreat for returning warriors who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Kelly sees the toll war has taken on the faces of her son's unit when she views the video of the memorial service that was held for Corey in Afghanistan.

"They break down for that few moments that they're allowed to break down. You see this curtain come down across their faces. When they get back on U.S. soil, they're stuffed it down for so long, they are not sure about how to get back on that grieving path," Kelly said.

When Kelly acquired the nearly two-acre property on the banks of the Little Manatee River, a group of veterans, community, and church volunteers pitched in to help transform it into a retreat. She is going to call it "My Warrior's Place" and it will be open to all returning service members and their families.

They can go there to un-wind, de-stress, and relax. She's also collaborating with professional counseling groups to offer services to help them transition back into mainstream life.

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