Independence Day celebration created for vets, current service members

By Brandi Courtois, Staff writer

Veterans Adventures hosted its first special Independence Day Celebration for veterans Wednesday, at the Touch of Nature Environmental Center.

Veterans Adventures is a program started by SIU’s Touch of Nature and SIU Veteran Services.

According to the organization’s website they aim to provide community building for veterans and current military personnel by presenting challenging opportunities, and showing support to foster a healthier veteran population.


For its first Independence Day celebration, the organization hosted a free event for veterans, current service members and their families.

Free food and activities were provided; some of the outdoor activities included boating, rock climbing and ziplining.

Pre-registered members were granted access to overnight cabins

Greg Nejmanoski, the event coordinator, said he, Lane Gambill and Janelle Noldin organized the event to further their organization’s goal of strengthening the local veteran community.

Nejmanowski said the event was firework-free to make it more relaxing for veterans who may struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sarah Zeman, an employee for Touch of Nature, hoped that veterans could enjoy the 4th of July in a way that suits them best.

Zeman said she hoped the events were fun, safe, and educational experiences.


Eric Johnson, an employee for Touch of Nature, got participants ready for the zipline and rock climbing events. He said the zipline is always a good time because it always pushes people and gets them out of their comfort zones.

Many families attending, like Joe Whaley and the Walgamott family, were interested in the zipline and rock climbing activities.

John Walgamott, who’s been serving in the Army for the past eight years, and his wife, who celebrated her birthday on the 4th, came to the event for the ziplining. 

Jacob Abegg, a volunteer for the event, said he couldn’t think of a better way to give back.

“It’s not for me, it’s for them,” Abegg said.

Veterans Adventures provides numerous free events and activities. The organization is able to do this through donations, fundraisers and an Illinois State grant.


For more information about Veterans Adventures visit:


Staff reporter Brandi Courtois can be reached at [email protected] 

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