My name is Joel Schneller and I am a USMC Veteran. I was born and raised in rural northern New York in the small town of Heuvelton and graduated from high school in 2000. Having always enjoyed the outdoors I majored in Natural Resource Conservation and earned an Associates Degree from SUNY Morrisville in 2002. In 2003, I successfully completed the New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Academy for Environmental Conservations Officers and have served as an Environmental Conservation Officer ever since.
My family has a long history of serving our country beginning with my and great grandfather who served in World War I and grandfather who served in World War II. These 2 patriots were followed by myself and 3 other cousins who have served in the USMC, Army Reserves and the Army National Guard. In 2005, while working for the DEC my reserve unit was deployed to Fallujah, Iraq for a 7 month tour. I was proud to go and serve my country but it was also the most difficult times I have ever experienced. Our unit was involved in hundreds of combat patrols and missions throughout some of the most dangerous cities in Iraq.
One patrol in particular will stay with me forever. It was the day our platoon was caught in a gun battle and I witnessed our platoon commander and another friend get killed. Two other of my Marine friends were also shot, but luckily enough they survived. This memory and day in particular, August 16th, still haunts me and bothers me daily. Another patrol that still brings back vivid memories is August 29th when my squad was ambushed by insurgents. I was in the turret of the vehicle and began firing back when our vehicle ran over an IED striking me with shrapnel in the face, neck, head and hand and knocking me unconscious. I woke up in the Fallujah hospital with a bad headache and my neck bandaged in gauze. Luckily I was just rattled with a few minor cuts from the shrapnel. When I saw pictures of the Humvee I was definitely sure an Angel was looking out for me or I wouldn’t be alive today. Our tour was completed and I returned state side in October where I continued working for the DEC and made my way home to Heuvelton and met my wife and we now have three wonderful children.
A few years ago, I was contacted by an Army Vet who was stationed at Fort Drum an hour away from me. He had heard I had coon hounds and asked if he could hunt with me. I have always enjoyed coon hunting and looking for others to partner up with so we agreed to meet up. We had an excellent evening of hunting together and talking about our service in the military. During our conversations he shared with me that he was also a Purple Heart Veteran. We continued to stay in contact with each other and the following year I received a call from him and was expecting him to ask to go coon hunting again; which I would have gladly invited him to do any time. He will always have a spot in my truck to come hunting. Instead he was asking me if I would like to go on a hunt. Now, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am always willing to go hunting. He said it was an antelope hunt in New Mexico. I explained to him I would love to go, but with a new family and my job I would have to pass because I would never be able to afford to take a trip like this for a while.
This is when he explained to me this was an all expense paid hunt by an organization called “Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures”. He went on to further describe the amazing opportunities the organization provided for wounded Vets and with this in mind I gladly accepted the invitation. On the trip I was fortunate enough to harvest a beautiful antelope buck. Not only was this a great opportunity for me as an individual but it allowed me to meet several other veterans who had experienced the same thing I have been through in the war. It allowed us to talk openly and honestly with each other about things that are not always the easiest to talk about or best stories to share with family or friends. I also met people who are true patriots and people who really care about our veterans and understand what sacrifices they have made to make this country great. They also understand what it takes to make us free.
Now I have been able to go on a few of these hunts, the antelope hunt in New Mexico, as well as turkey hunts in Florida, Mississippi and South Dakota. Each time I have thoroughly enjoyed the time spent meeting and sharing with my brother veterans and those who support us through Jeep’s organization. These time are more than just hunts. Each experience has allowed me to relax without the stresses of the world we live in. I’m so grateful and proud that I was able to get involved with such a great organization and meet such a caring person as Jeep who I can now call a friend. Jeep Sullivan and Jeep Sullivan’s Wounded Warrior Outdoor Adventures will always have a special place in my heart.