By Martha Phillips – Special to the Navarro County Gazette

Conservationist for Persons with Disabilities is a non-profit organization started in 2017 by Bill Messina and his wife Ericka. Messina began his law enforcement career at age 20 in the civilian world.

Ericka and Bill Messina. – Courtesy photo

As his career developed, he was recruited by the U.S. Air Force as a civilian investigator in the Office of Special Investigations (think the NCIS TV show). By this time, he was 27 years old and had much tactical law enforcement experience under his belt, which made him a perfect candidate for OSI. Messina’s OSI career has seen many military deployments along side military OSI agents. He has the same horrific experiences as many military war veterans he has served alongside.

The major difference is military veterans have many resources and safe guards for their war injuries from PTSD to losing a limb, civilian agents do not. Messina had the same difficulties assimilating back into a home life at the end of each deployment as his military counterparts.

Messina was fortunately reassigned to a new duty station in France, in August of 2016. This was the beginning of his healing journey. He was able to go to Germany and be diagnosed with PTSD and a traumatic brain injury (TBI) among other things and received the much-needed healing he deserved.

During this treatment he shared with the therapist how he, his wife and kids would pack up everything they needed for the entire month of December every year and go to their hunting lodge. Of course, as a family they not only enjoyed hunting but anything you could possibly do in the great outdoors. Messina shared that the one month long get away would reset him and his family for the next 11 months.

Messina’s therapist told him this one-month long retreat was not only “self-medication” but also what saved his marriage and his relationship with his children. This therapy session and subsequent conversation with his lovely wife Ericka led to the beginning of this non-profit charity for persons with disabilities. The charity has a strong emphasis on first responders like law enforcement and fire fighters as well as veterans and civilians who have served this country, but it is not limited to them, it is open to anyone with any type of disability AND their families.

Messina and his wife recognize the healing benefits of being in the outdoor environment as well as being “unplugged” from phones, computers and the like. Messina, his wife, along with other family members put time and money into the charity, but with everyone having full time jobs, it was difficult to do as much as they wanted to grow the charity.

One of Messina co-workers in OSI, Corsicana’s home-grown Andrew Phillips, has joined Messina thru the charity on four guided hunting trips. Phillips left Corsicana shortly after high school to join the Air Force. He served his country for eight years first in Germany as Special Forces (military police) then in Iraq flying an unmanned aircraft. He was reassigned and became a Military Working Dog handler stationed at Barksdale AF base in Louisiana.

Andrew Phillips and Bill Messina. – Courtesy photo

Phillips was soon deployed to Afghanistan with his Belgian Malinois, Rico, as a dog handler, where he and Rico would find IED’s along the roadside among other things. The Taliban frequently put a bounty on the head of each dog handler upwards of $150,000. Like Messina, Phillips was involved in law enforcement from a young adult age. Also, like Messina he has a PTSD diagnosis among others.

Andrew Phillips and Bill Messina outdoors. – Courtesy photo

After working with Messina, Phillips ended his military career in 2016 and began working as a State Trooper. Phillips left his job as a State Trooper to go back to college majoring in psychology, with a plan to become a “critical incident consoler”.

Phillips and Messina maintained their friendship over the years and Phillips attended his first of 4 hunting trips with Messina in 2017. After leaving his job with the state, he began having conversations with Messina about the charity and having benefited from his own experience of 4 hunting trips, Phillips wanted to volunteer in a big way to grow the charity and according to Messina, Phillips’s efforts have gained more traction for growth in the last three to four months than it had up to this point.

The charity has received it’s 501c from the IRS, it now has a website: Conservationists for Persons with Disabilities ( and a Facebook page: (20+) Conservationists for Person’s with Disabilities | Facebook. The charity also has caps with their logo for sale.

Phillips, using his hometown connections, has set up the charity’s  first big fundraiser right here in Corsicana at RTSS Gun Range. TJ Boatwright, who owns RTTS Gun Range and military veteran, also found it difficult adjusting to the world at home after his military career. When asked what he likes so much about this charity Boatright stated “I know it works to hep individuals like myself, to take a step back and be still for a little while and get connected with the outdoors and get refreshed and focused on the next level in life!”

Boatright went on to explain how the fundraiser works: “We will have a 3 gun shoot which focuses on rifle, shotgun and handgun proficiency. The entry fee is $60 per shooter and the top 3 winners with receive a plaque for their accomplishment.”

He went on to say, “We will also be having a 22lr bench rest shoot for distances: 50 yards to 300 yards, that entry fee is $30 per shooter with plaques for the top 3 winners. Overall, I look for a great day on the range and a chance for enjoyment by all. Remember, this is for a benefit, not for profit, so come and support CPD Outdoors so they can help our disabled veterans and law enforcement!”

CPD Outdoors’ inaugural fundraiser is at RTSS Gun Range on Saturday, Oct. 8. To find out more about the fundraiser check out the event page: (20+) RTSS Gun Range Hosting CPDOutdoors Fundraiser | Facebook.

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