By Cheryl Costello
It’s not the easiest place on the Bay to get to, but that’s part of its appeal. On a remote point in Dorchester County wounded veterans can experience the peace of the waterfront with fellow service members dealing with similar challenges.
It’s called Patriot Point, where duck hunting, fishing, and simply relaxing have become tools for healing. The veteran-founded organization gets support from the Military Bowl held at the Naval Academy and from a major Annapolis yacht dealer. This month Bay Bulletin joined Hugh Middleton, a retired Navy SEAL, for a tour of Patriot Point’s stunning beaches and shorelines. The views help our nation’s injured military members and their families heal.
“I’m a 100 percent disabled service veteran myself,” says Middleton. “A number of things I’ve seen and done have had their own effect on me. Not just mentally but physically. Two prosthetic shoulders—everything hurts all the time.”
Duck hunting is one of the favorite activities for veterans at the property. “This is one of our two retaining ponds for the ducks we raise,” Middletown showed Bay Bulletin, where 2,000 ducks were just delivered. Staff will raise them before duck hunting begins this fall. Feeders will help to keep the ducks in the area when they start to fly.
For some veterans, the beauty of nature at Patriot Point is what helps to bring them out of their own isolation. “The most important part of this whole deal is talking, and being able to get out what’s in here,” Middleton says, pointing to his head. “I’ve had people [stay at Patriot Point] who haven’t been out of their homes in a year.”
The property, open since 2016, has more than two miles of shoreline and is uniquely situated with a sweeping view. “We really are a convergence of several bodies of water: Slaughter Creek, Parsons Creek, the Little Choptank River. You go straight up and hook a right and you’re in the Choptank River, or you go right out here and hook a left and now you’re in the Chesapeake Bay.”
And further north up the Chesapeake Bay, an Annapolis boat dealer is generously supporting Patriot Point’s mission. Rob Taishoff, CEO and principal of Annapolis Yacht Sales, is a managing board member of the veterans retreat and a retired Navy captain. The Taishoff Family Foundation has given about $1.5 million to Patriot Point.
“I have funneled resources using Annapolis Yacht Sales to provide equipment, boats, that type of thing for the use of Hugh and the participants…I have the ability to buy the boat at cost. So Annapolis Yacht Sales’ contribution is whatever margin we would have made,” Taishoff says.
Veterans go fishing and get on kayaks. “I want to make sure there’s as many avenues as possible to access everything the Chesapeake Bay has to offer,” Taishoff adds.
Under Armour donated the gym with floor-to-ceiling windows where veterans can work out with a view. The other indoor spaces include a long table to enjoy meals, plenty of updated bedrooms, and a cozy lodge-like living space.
“Typically the same thing happens every time,” Middleton explains. “People get here, there’s some idle chit-chat. Everybody’s a little guarded and uncomfortable. Within an hour, because this place is so relaxing and welcoming, people start laughing and talking and joking and discussing: ‘I have the same problem you have. What did you do, how did you get through it?’”
For military veterans, Middleton says there will always be a need for this place of refuge. “I’ve lost four friends in the last six months to suicide, guys I’ve served with.”
Patriot Point helps wounded veterans discover a life worth living.