In a secluded location 10 miles south of Junction, TX along the South Llano River lies a beautiful lodge owned by a God-serving, Patriotic family. The lodge is aptly named “The Great House Retreat on Blaylock Ranch.” Steve and Mary Ann Blaylock built this facility as a fully funded retreat where believers and non-believers alike can get a spiritual sanctuary away from the distractions of daily life. For a week in May, they offered up the Great House to Mighty Oaks Warrior Programs to conduct a Fight Club for Men.
We were able to fill the Great House with 12 Fight Club attendees and 8 staff and instructors. The Navy, Marines and Army were all represented in those numbers. They came from locations all over the state of Texas and beyond. It was a mixing pot of services, personalities and beliefs. One thing they all had in common: they were ready to change their lives for the better and start living as the men they were created to be. From Day 1, they were engaged, looking for the answers they came to seek.
Aside from the time in the classroom, the Great House offered us many recreational activities. From fishing, swimming or kayaking down the Llanos River to rock climbing, four-wheeling, shooting at the range and miles of trails for hiking and jogging. We chose the easy route and stuck to fishing and kayaking. Fortunately the rain broke long enough for us to enjoy a day out of the water. It was a great time and gave us the opportunity to have great conversation and get to know each other a bit better.
On the final day, prior to a small graduation at the outdoor dining area, we were honored to participate in an amazing ceremony. We retired U.S. Flags that had reached the end of their lives properly, and sent them off with pride and honor. As prior and current Service Members, this ceremony reminded us of the reason we all signed up for military service in the first place; to protect and to serve our great Nation, and the freedoms that we are able to enjoy every day. It was a moving and emotional ceremony for all of us but left us with a sense of pride.
The Blaylocks cooked up a great meal of burgers, hot dogs and homemade french fries for the graduation ceremony. About 10 local families and couples came out to enjoy dinner with us and to recognize the sacrifice and life changing decisions that these amazing men made that week. We heard two very emotional testimonies from our graduates, which demonstrated the transformative work being done in these men’s lives. Against the backdrop of an American flag, inspirational testimonies and a convicting message to our graduates from our Director, Jeremy Stalnecker, the graduation was a success, and left us all with a new sense of Patriotism and hope for the future.
Jonathan “Jonny” Benton Deputy Director, Mighty Oaks Foundation