ABERDEEN, S.D. - Chris Reder doesn’t give up easily. Especially when it comes to finding ways to help his comrades.
Reder began that mission when he founded his nonprofit, the DTOM 22/0 Foundation.
Now, he hopes to do more by building a new “veterans ranch” in Brown County just north of Warner. The ranch, Reder said, would be a comprehensive treatment facility for post-traumatic stress disorder that would house up to 30 veterans. He previously planned to build the ranch in Colorado, but found more support for the project back in Aberdeen.
As a veteran of the U.S. Navy, Reder struggled for years with PTSD after a motorcycle accident led him to be medically discharged. But what he once looked at as a curse he now considers a blessing.
“It taught me how to understand. It prepared me for what I’m trying to do. I figured out my own stuff and moved on,” he said. “Now I have to turn around and help the people behind me.”
DTOM stands for “Don’t tread on me.” The 22 represents the number of veterans believed to commit suicide every day in the United States, and the zero represents the goal of the foundation - zero veteran suicides per day.
The foundation received a matching funds grant from the doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation for up to $10,000 and hopes to make its way toward its $93,000 goal on Dec. 15, the 15th annual Wreaths Across America, Reder said. He and others will place wreaths on the headstones at Warner Cemetery that morning. And, in order to get those matching funds, Reder figured the foundation may as well make a day of it, he said.
That’s what led to the day-long fundraiser - with a bake sale, vendor and craft fair, silent and live auctions and a band at the Eagles Club, 316 S. Second St.
“A lot of people are really starting to get involved,” he said. “This community really rallies and supports our veterans.”
Much of that support is coming from the foundation’s board of directors, including Kayla Cavalier, and someone who has always been right down the road - Reder’s neighbor, former babysitter and the owner of Topnotch Countertops, Melanie Rogers.
Military service runs deep in Rogers’ family: Both her grandfather and father served, as does her son.
She’s also witnessed firsthand the effects of PTSD. She knows it doesn’t just affect the veteran.
“It’s not even just a trickle down. It’s an explosion to everyone involved,” she said.
After her grandfather died, the family found a half-page document listing every battle he fought in World War I.
“There was one battle where there were 800 (soldiers) and only two of them survived,” she said. “My whole family is lucky to be here.”
Reder said his goal for the ranch is to give back a sense of purpose to struggling veterans.
The ranch will staff counselors and operate with volunteer help, Reder said. A big part of the ranch will be equine and dog therapy, he said.
The building that is currently on the land 2 1/2 miles north of Warner will be converted into horse stables. There isn’t yet a timeline on the build as Reder is waiting on a final bid for a lodge on the ranch.
That doesn’t mean there isn’t work to be done, though. For the foundation, the ultimate goal still remains at zero veteran suicides every day.
“Everyone gets caught up in the 22 per day. But that’s 22 families getting destroyed every day in this country,” Reder said. “We have to do more. When they come back broken, we aren’t doing enough to take care of them. Just thanking them for their service isn’t enough.”