Free retreat gives veterans a sense of freedom in northern Michigan

Before shipping out to Iraq, a paratrooper from Canton asked his father to do one thing if he didn't return home. He made his parents promise to take care of "his guys."

His parents kept their word by paying it forward in the most extraordinary way.

"They're saying thank you in the way that they know how, by inviting us into their home and treating us like family," says Blum's Landing visitor Richard Dunkley.

Family is the foundation of Blum's Landing, a tranquil 12 acre retreat on Orchard Lake near Rogers City.

"It's just peaceful. Rarely do you even hear a plane, no less anything else," says Jan Blumberg.

It's also the place where Terry and Jan Blumberg find comfort in their grief.

"You just remember the precious moments and hold onto them," recalls Jan.

The couple built the retreat to honor their son, 22-year-old Army Sergeant Trevor Blumberg who was killed in Iraq in 2003. The paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division had spent three days in Fallujah when an IED struck his humvee.

"We came home from church; the Lions were on. I laid down on the couch and then we heard a knock at the door and I got up. Not thinking anything of it, walked over and there they stood," remembers Terry Blumberg.

It took a few years after Trevor's death for the Blumbergs to find purpose in their pain.

They used Trevor's death benefits and insurance money, along with help from volunteers and area veterans groups, to build Blum's Landing. It's a free retreat for military members who served post September 11th.

"We knew we wanted a place to have a place where the guys could go out into the woods. Trevor loved the woods. He loved being out in nature. He loved being up north, and he loved to fish with his dad," says Jan. "So, Terry went about with the dog, traversing around Michigan trying to find a place that would meet those needs, and he found it at Orchard Lake."

"He would've said, 'Build some lean-tos and a place to haev a fire.' He was a very basic person," Terry laughs. "He probably took to the infantry so well because that's the kind of lifestyle he liked. He liked being out there testing his metal against nature, against everything constantly."

Since it opened in 2010, Blum's landing has hosted about 50 families, including Richard Dunkley. The Linden soldier earned his family's stay by serving as an army supply specialist in Afghanistan.

"They're very family oriented and they just treat you like family," Dunkley says with a humble smile.

Terry and Jan say it's the least they can do, since they know soldiers like Dunkley have sacrificed and given up so much.

"You come back and you're used to living on the edge. The adrenaline flows high, you never look straight forward; you're always looking left and right. You've gotta be aware of your surroundings all of the time. It's hard to say, 'I'm safe and it's okat.' That's what Blum's Landing is. You're safe and it's ok," says Terry.

The Blumbergs hope to build two cabins for disabled veterans, but they need help funding the project.

Click here if you would like to help fulfill their mission.