Nonprofit brings veterans with disabilities to Skagway for weekend of excursions

Mission Objective Outdoors Vice President Brian Leipold. (from Mission Objective Outdoors Facebook Page)

A Skagway non-profit will host a group of wounded veterans from Fairbanks this September for a weekend of nature excursions. Mission Objective Outdoors was created earlier this year to provide support for veterans with disabilities and challenge them to be active in the great outdoors.

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Back in February, David Moncibaiz was talking about plans for retirement with his friend Brian Leipold. During that conversation, they came up with a plan to create a non-profit to help veterans who were wounded during their service. Moncibaiz said they got to work on the project immediately.

“By the end of the day, we had a name and we had already submitted paperwork to become a non-profit and put in the 501(c)(3) paperwork,” Moncibaiz said. “Next thing you know we’re taking steps to start raising funds and the City of Skagway started backing us 100 percent.”

Both Moncibaiz and Leipold are veterans themselves and were wounded in the line of duty.

Life after the military can be hard for any veteran, but Moncibaiz said it can be particularly difficult to adjust to civilian life when soldiers leave the military unexpectedly due to an injury.

“When you get out of the military, especially when some guys weren’t ready to get out and they got out because of an injury, life hits you and it hits you hard,” Moncibaiz said. “But in the military, you are taken into a family, and then sometimes a lot of these guys that do get hurt are separated from that family rather quickly, and that can kind of be a shock to your system.”

But Moncibaiz said that Skagway has been the perfect environment to transition out of the military and into everyday life.

“There’s not a lot of stress here. There’s not a lot of stuff to worry about here,” Moncibaiz said. “You can be outdoors and kind of… You know, it makes you want to be able to get out and be your better self, be able to do the stuff that you used to do when you weren’t broken. This place has just changed my life, and it’s changed Brian’s life as well, and we wanted to put that out there to other disabled veterans and let them experience it as well. Hopefully, it will help them out like it’s helped us.”

For their first project, Mission Objective Outdoors is hosting the Skagway Experience 2018. The event brings six veterans from Fairbanks to Skagway for a weekend of hikes, glacier tours, zip-lining and river floats.

Moncibaiz says the Skagway Elks have been instrumental in making the trip possible. The trip is funded through a grant from the Alaska State Elks Association.

“We covered lodging, cover flights, food, and putting these guys on excursions, and we’re going to hang out and just treat these guys to, I’m sure, a well-needed vacation and hopefully make some lifetime brothers,” Moncibaiz said. “Everything’s coming together really great.”

Moncibaiz said they will do the Skagway Experience every year, but he wants to expand Mission Objective Outdoors with trips to other areas of Alaska and even the Lower 48. He hopes this will help foster a sense of belonging for injured veterans.

“We want to make sure that they know that they’re not alone. That we’re still here for them and we’re still working through our disabilities,” Moncibaiz said. “Even though we can’t be in the military, we still have to challenge ourselves. We have to get out in the great outdoors, do some hiking, do some hunting, do some fishing, and have that camaraderie and still be able to challenge ourselves and challenge each other.”

The six veterans from Fairbanks will be in Skagway from September 13th to the 16th. You can visit the Mission Objective Outdoors Facebook page to learn more about the organization.