In January 2002, four US Army Rangers from 3d Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, having just returned from their first of what would become many combat deployments, made a journey to Arkansas to hunt ducks. After the 5th annual rendezvous in Arkansas, the collective group realized the weekend was about far more than the harvest…
The weekend was about friends – friends you had shared some hard days with; friends you had laughed and cried with; and friends you deeply cared for. It was a weekend to look deep into one another’s eyes and see the pain of accumulating deployments – the physical and psychological toll. It was a weekend to relax in a safe environment, to decompress, and to heal. It was just what the original four Rangers needed to return to their respective assignments and once again train for and deploy to combat.
The collective group sat around the dinner table one evening and decided to share the powerful experience with others who could also benefit. The vision was simple: Using Southern hospitality, in the outdoor beauty of the Natural State, all within the lure of the great tradition of hunting and fishing, create a program to serve the men and women of the Special Operations community – who had been and would continue to sustain the many physical and otherwise wounds of fighting our Nation’s wars.
For years, Jim Daniel and Julia Ann Daniel ran, resourced and hosted a number of Soldiers in their home in Bald Knob, Arkansas. A generous local businessman made a renovated farmhouse available in 2015, so DWS doubled the number of Soldiers hosted each year. Shawn Daniel retired from Army in 2017, and assumed full-time duties as the Executive Director in 2021.
In September 2022, DWS launched a capital campaign to build its own facility – complete with a 10-bedroom lodge, an 8 acre pond, two pistol bays, a rifle range, and a sporting clays range. The intent is to offer the facility year-round beginning in the fall of 2024.
Darby’s Warrior Support Inc. (DWS)-EIN# 46-5207131- is a domestic, IRS recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation created on May 16, 2014, in the state of Arkansas. Prior to 2014, DWS operated with the same focus under the name Operation Wounded Warrior Support.
What We Do
Although all 9/11 generation combat veterans are eligible, DWS' target population is the Special Operations community, the world’s most elite fighting force. This focus comes from the origins of our first 4 guests to make their annual journey to Arkansas in 2002.
Special Operations Soldiers are role models – mentally, morally, and physically. They use their minds as well as bodies to make sound judgments, reasoned decisions, and ultimately accomplish their mission – though they be the lone survivor. These men and women demonstrate discipline both on and off duty, and their standards are enduring.
DWS shares and operates by the Ranger standards. We are professionals serving professionals. To understand what makes these Soldiers unique is to understand the uniqueness of DWS.
The Arkansas values of rugged individualism, hard work, patriotism and love of the outdoors makes the Natural State the perfect location for DWS. These Arkansas values make it possible for DWS to operate with a lean staff and a host of volunteers – focusing their hard-earned capital on serving more men and women in uniform.
Guest arrive to Arkansas to find all required gear waiting for them. Hats, gloves, neck gaiters, pants/waders, guns and required ammunition – all laid out in a cubby waiting to confirm sizes. Lodges include all modern amenities, and the cooking staff is ready to serve world class meals the entire weekend.
Guests are treated to a guided world class hunting or fishing experience on properties we own, properties made available for our exclusive use, or properties made available by some of the finest and most exclusive hunting/fishing clubs in the state.
The only expense for our guests is the cost of their hunting or fishing license. We are able to provide for our guests due to the generosity and patriotism of our community and a host of sponsors.
Having benefited from the experience personally and after watching hundreds of Soldiers cycle through over the years, a weekend spent with friends/comrades who have shared some trying and difficult days coupled with the peacefulness of a morning sunrise and often in the company of a grateful community makes a difference in the lives of our Nation’s most precious asset – the American Soldier. Our guests arrive offering a handshake, but the depart with nothing shy of a hug – far better off than when they arrived. Nature Heals!
The DWS Mission is to provide physically and emotionally injured post 9/11 Special Operations Combat veterans with all-inclusive Arkansas hunting and fishing opportunities in an environment that comforts, encourages and fosters rehabilitation, recovery and transition.
Who We Are
Colonel (Retired) Shawn Daniel - President
Command Sergeant Major (Retired) Dennis Smith - Vice President
SFC (Retired) Nick Neuert - Operations Manager / Guide
Colonel (Retired) Art Kandarian - Assistant Operations Manager / Guide / Community Outreach
The entire team consists of leaders from the 75th Ranger Regiment, men with extensive leadership assignments and deployment histories, and men who understand the sacrifice and nature’s healing power.
A capital campaign (Operation Nature Heals) launched in September 2022, and a number of generous patriots enabled construction on a new lodge to begin in July 2023. Patriot Outpost (made possible by Patriots and in support of Patriots) is scheduled for completion in the fall of 2024. Until then, DWS will operate out of a single “lodge”, Ranger Base Darby (RBD) – made possible by a generous family from Little Rock, for the 2023-24 season
By design, DWS remains organizationally lean – four full-time employees (an executive director, two operations managers, and one admin manager) and enough part-time cooks and cleaning teams to adequately feed and reset the lodge for the next group of guests. We feel a deep sense of obligation to properly manage the resources entrusted to us by our donors. Annual audits continue to see ~80% spending on operational requirements, with the remaining split equally between fundraising and administrative expenses.
The original four Rangers from 3rd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment traveled to Arkansas to hunt ducks – after the first of many combat deployments. Since Colonel William O. Darby is recognized as the founder of the modern-day Ranger and a native of Fort Smith, Arkansas, the team believed it was only fitting to select Darby as the organization’s namesake.
The team believes in the mission and believes they are making a difference in the lives of a small population of our military that was being called upon to bear the load of our Nation’s longest war. While passionate about the outdoors, our greatest passion is serving those who have given so much. Some ask for statistics; our greatest is that 0.0% of those we have hosted since 2007 have chosen suicide as the answer. We don’t claim to have the magic solution, but we are clearly doing something right.
Who Is Darby?
William Orlando Darby was an Arkansas native born in western Arkansas who is known for the organization of the First Ranger Battalion during World War II. Darby started his military career at West Point Military Academy in 1929 after graduating from Fort Smith Senior High School. At West Point, he served as a cadet company commander. In 1933 Darby graduated from West Point and was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was assigned to the first Battalion, Eight-second Field Artillery of the First Cavalry.
Quickly after the Pearl Harbor bombing, Darby was assigned as an aide-de-camp and deployed to Northern Ireland in early 1942. Darby was then chosen to organize and train a new commando unit. Darby was promoted to major and the First United States Army Ranger Battalion took place in July of 1942. After the North Africa Invasion and many successful night attacks, the First, Third and Fourth Ranger battalions invaded Sicily a year later in 1943. In January of 1944, the First and Third battalions suffered the loss of many Rangers and combined to become the First Special Service Force. The Fourth Battalion also lost many warriors and afterwards made up the ranger force.
Darby was then reassigned to lead the 179th Infantry Regiment, Forty-fifth Division in February of 1944. Shortly after organizing the broken regiment, Darby was needed back in the United States where he served as a section of chief of the General Staff’s War Plans Division at the Pentagon. Darby served 11 months in this position and then returned overseas on a tour of the European theater in 1945. After receiving command, Darby led the Tenth Mounted Division in the advance on Lake Garda. During the process of planning for the coming day’s battles, a German shell exploded near Darby’s location where a piece of shrapnel hit him. Minutes later, Darby passed away. Just a couple of days later, German forces in Italy surrendered. After his heroic death, Darby was promoted to brigadier general on May 15, 1945. Darby was a brave warrior or who gave up so much to fight for his country. Darby is a name we feel is representative to our organization because this Arkansas native not only fought for his country, but fought for the warriors he trained. We want to do the same for the warriors we support through our organization, Darby’s Warrior Support.