When John “Tig” Tiegen and wife Margaret began hosting an annual pig roast for veterans at their Colorado ranch, the former U.S. Marine did not realize the impact the gatherings had.
Then, he received an email from a veteran after one of the events.
“He said, ‘I’ve never been anywhere people could actually talk and hash things out and realize I wasn’t alone in the struggles,’” recalled Tiegen during a Beyond the Battlefield-hosted weekend at Reveille Peak Ranch outside of Burnet. “‘My goal,’” he continued in recounting the email, “‘was to come up there, have a little bit of fun with my family, go back home, and kill myself.’”
“He’s still alive today,” Tiegen said.
That email encouraged him to continue holding the pig roasts, which he started in 2002. The event grew into Beyond the Battlefield, a nonprofit that helps veterans and first responders deal with struggles and strife in an effort to reduce the number of suicides within those two groups.
The organization hosted a Warrior Weekend on June 12-14 at Reveille Peak Ranch, drawing about 50 veterans and their families for fun and fellowship. Typically, Tiegen said, the events bring in about 300 people, but the recent one was scaled back due to COVID-19.
Tiegen became known through the film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” and the book on which the film was based, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.” Both were based on his and fellow CIA Annex Security Team members’ accounts of an Islamic militant attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012. The attack left four Americans dead, but the actions of the security team saved many lives.
The pig roasts started as small gatherings to reconnect with friends and former Marines. Now, the weekend-long events include fun activities for the whole family.
At the Reveille Peak Ranch event, attendees participated in the Redneck Olympics, which included off-beat competitions such as sunflower seed spitting. Wacky costumes were encouraged, though not required.
Tiegen intentionally made Warrior Weekend into a low-pressure get-together, unlike regimented events he has attended in the past during which participation was required.
“I’ve been to events where they get mad at veterans if they want to head back (to their rooms),” Tiegen said.
Like the earlier pig roasts, some of the best times had during a Warrior Weekend is when the games are done and there’s a fire going.
“A lot of the things happen at night around the fire pit,” Tiegen said.
Martelle Luedecke of Luedecke Photography contributed to this article.