Storm Bowen was wounded in combat in 2007, and he spent a long time in the hospital. And during that time he discovered the simple pleasure of smoking a cigar. At that point Cigars for Warriors was born.
Cigars for Warriors is a nonprofit charity whose sole mission is to send premium cigars and accessories to the men and women of the U.S. military serving in combat zones, no matter where they are. Requests are made online, and each package comes with cigars, cutters, and literature.
"I'm retired and I have a lot of free time on my hands," he says. "With cigars, there is so much to learn and experience and it's easy to get excited."
Bowen has a lot to be excited about. While recovering from his injuries, he experienced cigar culture for the first time. His brother-in-law took him to get a cigar and share a smoke. He quickly became an aficionado.
"If you've never smoked one before and try to pretend you can, it's the worst thing you can do," Bowen adds. "My first time, I went for the three dollar one, trying to save money, and it wasn't a good idea. You just don't enjoy it properly."
True to this creed, there are no dog rockets in a Cigars for Warriors care package. Bowen and Cigars for Warriors will only send premium cigars to the troops abroad. Donations in cash defer the cost of purchasing new, high-quality tobacco or for shipping them overseas. Bowen estimates 98 percent of money collected goes to getting the cigars to the troops, while the remaining is used for promotion.
"This really is a group effort," he explains. "When we first started in 2012, I tried to get a grip on a real number for how many we might be able to send that year. When I set it to 800, everyone looked at me like I was crazy. By the end of the year, we had shipped 92,000."
Cigars are the number one item requested by deployed troops and Cigars for Warriors is happy to oblige. They use cigar and tobacconist shops as collection points and volunteers to manage the collecting.
"There are many well-organized cigar clubs in combat zones," Bowen says. "All of us are volunteers and for something so small, it's having a much bigger impact than we expected. For a lot of these guys, it's like a slice of home."
Some of the volunteers working with Bowen are recipients of cigars themselves.
"It's special to these guys," Bowen remarks. "We get instant feedback in some cases. They send us photos we call 'stogie smiles.' That just fills your tank and gets you going for days."
To learn more about, donate to, or request cigars from Cigars for Warriors visit http://cigarsforwarriors.org/