Gift Hunt 2014: Another Veteran Goes Hunting
We have just recently returned from our second "wounded veteran" hunt held, this year, in Georgia. This was our second such sponsored hunt where we brought a veteran along as our guest and provided him with a free four day hunt and also, upon his arrival, gave him a free rifle, scope and accessories, as part of our hunt package.
I can go no further without expressing my appreciation to Jay Brown, the Executive Director of the Combat Helicopter Pilotís Association, where I am a member, as my original point of contact helping to find a deserving individual for this year's hunt. His assistance was invaluable in hosting a fine young American on what we hoped would be a memorable hunt provided by some fellow Americans who understand the definition of both serving and sacrifice. Thank you again, Jay!
Jay graciously put me in touch with Kevin Kenney, a member of Operation Second Chance, an organization devoted to helping those who have experienced life-altering experiences while serving our great nation. As most of you might expect, planning a vacation for a service member still on active duty can be a challenging situation. Kevin and I had something like three other candidates online, before the fourth could finally be confirmed as our special guest. Again, not something we know nothing about; having to go to a plan "B" (or C or D), as necessary.
Operation Second Chance stepped up to provide the flight necessary to carry our hunter from the D.C. area (still on active duty) to a nearby airport in Georgia. They also provided a volunteer escort to pick him up at the airport and also join us in camp for the hunt. Kudos to this fine organization for stepping up and offering to provide any help needed for this gift hunt.
Our guest and his escort arrived at our nice camp outside of Wrightsville, Georgia on Friday evening, the 17th of January (2014). After some introductions and a bit of chatter amongst the group of six of us now in place for the hunt, we presented our guest's gift rifle to him. He had no idea we had planned this as part of his hunt.
To say he was dumbfounded when handed a new Winchester Model 70 Featherweight in .30-06, topped with a Leupold VX2 3-9x40mm riflescope, would be a huge understatement. First disbelief, followed by a few minutes of simply fondling that nice American made rifle and scope. If the hunt had ended right then, I'd have been fine with it, but our guest hunter was also very eager to harvest what would be his first wild hog ever. A dinner of Spaghetti and meatballs followed that brief presentation and a few rounds of cheer had everyone excited about our upcoming four day hunt.
Next morning, our guest took an hour or two to shoot and familiarize himself with his new rifle. If possible, he seemed to like it even more after putting a box of ammo through it, preparing for the first afternoon hunt!
Sighting-in the new rifle and scope.
The weather throughout turned out to be chilly, but dry. We found the hogs in the area to be a tad uncooperative with our plans, which included chops and barbeque. We all enjoyed each and every day's hunt, along with the food that was provided for our guest and his escort. We had typical camp fare with additional dinners and lunches, including meals such as chili, venison stew and baked ham that we all (including our two guides) enjoyed together.
The hogs remained elusive enough that, although some had been seen, our group remained hog-less right up until the last evenings hunt. That last hunt finally proved productive for two members of our group. Our special guest hunter was the first and ultimately only hunter to take a mature hog on our hunt. I was so excited upon receiving the text that last evening saying he had scored I wanted to cut my eveningís hunt short and get back to camp and join the celebration.
Our proud hunter with his hog.
With this single harvest, our hunt had become a great success for all involved. Our guest had to work hard to harvest his hog, something he did without complaint. If we all had not already known exactly how severe his injuries had been, after having been shot in Afghanistan, none of us would have guessed. Life altering is as far as my description will go. To see and hear his enthusiasm for the hunt, his fine young family and life in general was something we all enjoyed!
Although none of the rest of us scored on a big hog, we knew we were actually there for a more important reason; to provide a few days of fun and adventure for a very fine young American. I dare say we accomplished that.
In closing, I'd fist like to again thank both Jay Brown and Kevin Kenney for their support and help in hooking us up with a young man who exemplifies all that is good about this nation. Our group consisted of two military retirees, active duty Navy, former active duty and civilians who all shared a single, common purpose: to show our gratitude in some very small way to those who have given much for this nation.
The "package" we provided for our honored guest totaled well over $2000, with every dollar being provided by donations from people I know, along with the help for the flight given by Operation Second Chance. We received donations from eight states, from as far away as Alaska and California. I am humbled by the help and generosity of every one of those individuals.
My very good friend, Don, traveled all the way from Wisconsin to Georgia to participate (along with his generous donation). We took pride in being sure that the gift rifle and scope were manufactured in America, just as we had done for last year's honored guest, a Marine veteran also badly injured in Afghanistan who hunted with us and received a similar package.
Note: We are not connected with the fine Wounded Warrior Foundation, but rather perform a similar service for our Nationís deserving veterans.
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