“A Common Cord”

By Michelle McConnell

Nestled between the firehouse and police station of Noble, OK, just off Main Street sits a unique business on a mission to make a difference in the lives of America’s veterans. The humble storehouse and manufacturing center known as Recoil Rifle Slings is doing just that, giving struggling veterans back their sense of purpose and productivity.

storefront

(Photo credit Recoil Rifle Slings)

The founder and former US Marine, Will Hawkins is a 100% disabled veteran whose military career tragically ended due to an injury sustained in the line of duty.  After his honorable discharge, Hawkins found himself like many other veterans, “just sitting around,” yet still seeking a way to serve.  Anyone who’s worn the uniform or raised their hand understands that the call to serve is etched in the very essence of our troops, both past and present, and Hawkins was no different. “Staring at four walls had begun to take its toll” Hawkins admitted; he still desperately wanted to have a form of employment which continued to embody the brotherhood of the military career he enjoyed so much, but didn’t know where to turn.

 

It was after the purchase of an AR-15, (which at that time, were more expensive) that Hawkins didn’t have the funds to buy a sling to accompany his new rifle.  He did, however, have a lot of paracord lying around his home. Going back to his Marine roots of “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome,” he designed and fashioned a rifle sling out of the materials he had on-hand.  Creating the sling brought back a sense of his usefulness, and helped to deflect and work through some of the circumstances he was dealing with.

 

Then one day while Hawkins was at the shooting range, a stranger approached him, offering to purchase the sling on the spot for $100! That’s when Hawkins was struck with the idea that he could be on to something with the potential to actually help not only himself, but others veterans with their various struggles.  This has been the driving influence behind Recoil Rifle Slings. Though Hawkins has been unable to locate the earliest buyer of the first Recoil Rifle Sling, that gentleman unwittingly became the initial inspiration for RRS.

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Approaching his father, Bill Hawkins, himself an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam Era about his concept, they began working together to develop the basis of what was to come.  The objective was simple, and the passion to create a business which would welcome and provide for veterans soon fell into place.   Initially started out of Will Hawkins home, RRS quickly grew and moved to a trailer on a friends’ land, but didn’t stop there.  Recoil continued its development and is now headquartered on the corner of 2nd and Ash in Noble, OK.  Currently in their 5th year of operations as a positive force in the community, Recoil remains dedicated to serving veterans in refreshing and original way.

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(You’ll note that many family members have also honorably served – these photos are proudly displayed in Bill Hawkins office of their military heritage.)

 

Presently Recoil Rifle Slings employs 7 disabled veterans, and has helped them to break a vicious cycle caused by both mental and physical setbacks.  (Their staff and stories http://recoilrifleslings.com/team-recoil/ )  Even beyond that, the work returns to them a sense of self-respect and accomplishment while being around other veterans encourages them with acceptance and understanding of what they are going through … ultimately providing the necessary support for the transition process from military to civilian life; a place where they can still earn a source of income, while remaining connected to a “band of brothers.”

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While these devoted Veterans are hand manufacturing each and every sling, you’ll quickly note that they all possess a deep passion and pride for what they are doing.  Each realizes that they could be making something for a PFC oversees, or a police officer patrolling the streets.  As they braid the strands together, the process allows them work through their own personal situations while creating something that will forever bond the maker and the recipient. The power of that bond goes much deeper and is far stronger than simply the paracord in the final product.

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(Photo credit Recoil Rifle Slings)

That’s when it hits home, this is bigger than just a rifle accessory… it’s a lasting impact – to provide encouragement to a veteran, and allow them to express themselves.  Hawkins says that it’s been an honor to be able to witness other Veterans who have stepped up and set goals for themselves – and in return, regained their dignity. Many of the veterans which have joined the RRS Team have found a new source of hope for rejoining the civilian workforce, enrolling in college and/or finishing their education, not to mention being able to conquer their personal demons.

 

Hawkins notes that the overarching goal “is getting it done to achieve the mission.  The mission however, is bigger than the product. It’s people, who play a part in that.  Each of the veterans’ are contracted 1099 employees, putting them in the mindset of personal responsibility, and they all pull together to get the job done.  There’s a certain understanding on VA appointments, and “bad days.”  The staff respects and supports each other.  Offering acceptance of the struggles and hardships which they may be dealing with. That’s the Recoil way, which help to reintroduce them back into a workforce and aid with the social anxiety.  Looking out for one another and building on it.”

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(Photo credit Recoil Rifle Slings)

The average time to create a Recoil Rifle Sling product ranges approximately from 1 to 3 hours, incredible by itself, but the effect of that time on each member of the Recoil team is the real revelation. It’s inspiring to see the determination of their staff to create a product which allows veterans to connect with their brethren and takes them out of a potentially bad situation, forming a new impression of structure and having found a place where they fit with others shouldering the same burdens. The Vietnam Era veterans have provided a fatherly element to the younger generation of vets at RRS – and all have become close friends, honored to be a part of the experience.

 

In addition to his work at Recoil, Hawkins hosts a podcast called “Veteran Logic,” dedicated to discussing current news and politics (without getting too political) from a military perspective, thus providing Hawkins and his co-hosts a platform to discuss relevant topics, such as justice and constitutional rights, and to reach other veterans which may potentially feel that the mainstream media is not addressing their concerns, or that their voices are not being heard.  Veteran Logic is a raw production, and still in its first season.  This stage is just one more way that RRS has stepped-up, and further involves other veteran owned and operated companies committed to the same cause.   Veteran’s Logic can be found on iTunes, Facebook, YouTube * Make sure you subscribe to their YouTube channel – *YouTube Veteran Logic   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCspyzFSZ5XrXyAYGBlKKkFg

 

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During the podcast, you will notice a vivid mural, designed by Hawkins, behind the hosts. The hand-painted work reflects a dawning optimism for soldiers coming home from deployment, and depicts the CH46 helicopters, to which Hawkins was assigned and worked on, as well as a tribute to his infantry brothers.  The artist is fellow veteran Damien Walker.  Additionally, Walker is a co-host of Veteran Logic, and one of the Veterans to which Recoil has been able to contribute assistance.

 

Recoil Rifle Slings has seen many changes in the structure of the company, but more importantly has seen the changes in its team members. Nearly a dozen veterans have been served by Recoil Rifle Slings, and several have returned to continue furthering the cause.  Furthermore, RRS attempts to pay it forward by doing business with other veteran-owned companies, including the screen printer for their T-shirts Bob Wasilewski with Goodies, and Justin Scott with Rustic Flag Company.

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The ultimate and ambitious goal Hawkins has for Recoil, is to one day secure a gun company or government contract for further development and production of the slings. Such an opportunity would present the chance to enhance growth and bring even more former service members into the fold, causing a ripple effect.  His dream includes a 5,000-square foot warehouse, full of veterans which could allow each member of the Recoil team to filter in and out as necessitated appointments, struggles or their own personal needs, and to do even more for veterans across the spectrum who might be in a “22” situation. This builds on the ingrained drive to create something for an active troop, thus countering the feeling of stripped identity and uniform that often accompanies a return to the civilian sector, while helping to build each individual back up – and out of the hole.

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(Photo credit Recoil Rifle Slings)

There is a very good and reliable piece of written literature that states “A person standing alone can be attached and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer.  Three is better yet, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.”  A durable and common cord is at the heart of RSS, tying them all together.

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(Photo credit Recoil Rifle Slings)

 

Additional information about Recoil Rifle Slings, as well as their many other products and services beyond rifle slings, may be found here: http://recoilrifleslings.com/

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