I pull into Blastcamp looking forward to a weekend of meeting new people, hanging out with friends, and of course paintball; but what I got was so much more. I was taught what true determination is and that if you really want something, nothing can stop you. At a paintball field? Yes, at a paintball field. Why, you may ask, was this different than any other event I had attended before? Simply put, I was surrounded by true heroes the entire weekend that would inspire anyone to continue living no matter what. Not just living but living life beyond their injuries. Don’t quite understand, keep reading.
The first group of people I met at Blastcamp was Team Defiant. Not only do they put 100% of all donations towards wounded veterans, they are a group that actively encourages and makes it possible for wounded veterans to play this sport we all love so much. Folks, I am talking about soldiers who have lost an arm, a leg, or who have been paralyzed; for example William White. William is a U.S. Marine who was there with his service dog (Rudy, gotta give Rudy his due too) never stopped going! He was out there just like the rest laying paint; but that’s not all he does. William goes skydiving, does archery, scuba dives, is a shooting expert, and does just about anything you can think of. In no way does he let his injuries keep him down and he has the greatest spirit about him. It was an honor to meet you, Semper Fi Devil Dog!
I also met Dillion “Spinal Tap” Cannon who is now confined to a wheelchair due to an incident while serving in the U.S. Army. His paintball motto is “lead from the front” which is exactly what he does. Positioned in his Action Track, all terrain chair, he charges the field ready to take on any and all he can find. Watching Dillion and how Team Defiant handled his special needs was touching to say the least. They helped him get his paintball gear on when he could not and they made sure someone was on field with him to keep him cooled off (due to his injuries he does not perspire like we do and requires frequent cooling off).Â Even though Dillon has reasons to give up his passion for paintball, he has not wavered and with a group like Team Defiant beside him and William, I doubt either of them ever will.
Aside from Team Defiant, I also met Kyle Bartolini. Kyle suffered a spinal cord injury that has left him without the use of his legs, but it has not stopped his love for paintball. Outfitted with a special 4-wheeler you could see Kyle all over the field slinging paint and taking names. Fellow paintballer, A-Train noticed how Kyle struggled to keep his gun upright because of the heavy tank. So at the end of the event, Kyle was given a special lightweight one-of-a-kind Crossfire tank with free refills for life!
While each and every player was touched by the stories and amazing attitudes of these players, the event itself was phenomenal. Kerry “Viper” Rosenberry put together a fantastic game that had both teams moving all day. From prop runs to missions, teams were guaranteed to be taking hits or making them. Sunday afternoon players continued with a heated final battle even as the rains poured down on them. Nothing was going to keep the players down or from playing. The Russians, led by Neil Chittenden, came on strong and were ready to defeat the Americans, led by Steve “Necro” Kaltenbach, but the American strength and ingenuity held strong and they came out victorious. However, both leaders felt like they had won because they got to play with some awesome squads and on a fantastic field.
No doubt Blastcamp is a one of a kind experience, from the field itself to the awesome staff you have got to check them out. Blastcamp (or site C-47) is a decommissioned Nike Missile base near Wheeler, Indiana and is listed as a national historic site. Evidence of the actual base can be seen everywhere from the old guard shack located at the entrance to the long abandoned basketball court. On site you will find the administrative building, a fallout shelter, 5 radar towers, waste-water treatment plant, a vehicle storage and maintenance center, 2 barracks buildings, mess hall, dog kennel, medical center, communications building, and the old launch pad areas. Current owner, Virgil Frey, has spent 3 years cleaning up and refurbishing this field and according to many sources, he’s done a fantastic job. “It’s better than it has ever been” and “this place is awesome“ came from almost every person I asked.
And then there is the staff. All I can say is this is by far the best reffing staff I have met. Not only were there plenty of them (which meant no hunting for a ref to sign a card); but they were all knowledgeable, friendly, and willing to help. You could go nowhere on field without seeing at least one of them waiting to help out or of course call you out.
While I did not get to play at this event, I intend on going back and fully experiencing it; no doubt you should check it out too. For more information on Blastcamp please visit their website at www.blastcamp.com.
All pictures from the event can be found at: www.facebook.com/KellyPistolBrennan