by Erin McCloskey, Hope For The Warriors Staff - Wednesday, June 13, 2018
There is something soothing about sitting quietly in the woods, waiting for that perfect buck, bear or gobbler to pass before your sights. For many combat-wounded veterans hunting is not an option. But thanks to Buckmasters and the national nonprofit Hope For The Warriors (HFTW) and its Outdoor Adventures program, two combat-wounded veterans recently were invited to join the group for the 26th annual Buckmasters Life Hunt, a three-day deer hunt providing the long-awaited opportunity to return to the wild.
Held at the Sedgefields Lake Plantation in Union Springs, Ala., the hunt is generally reserved for children and young adults with life-threatening illnesses, but this was the fifth consecutive year Buckmasters included two HFTW Outdoors Adventures-supported military members: Army Master Sergeant veteran Patrick Julian and Marine Sergeant veteran Will Hampton. Both experienced hunters, they each bagged a buck on the trip but enjoyed much more than just the hunting.
"Showing up to camp was like showing up late to a family reunion,” said Hampton, who is from Washington State and appreciated how spouses and children were also welcome to spend time in camp. “From there it’s catching up around the fire listening to the stories you missed while away. But the main feeling is you just came home. In the blind we talked like family, poked fun at each other, ran ideas and talked life.”
Getting his first buck in 20 years, Indiana-based Julian (pictured above) enjoyed the experience and praised the guides. “I had the best time at the Buckmasters Life Hunt. Since being injured, the guides were especially helpful along with all the super friendly staff. Thanks to all for providing me with this chance of a lifetime.”
“We continue to enjoy our great partnership with Hope For The Warriors,” said Jackie Bushman, CEO of Buckmasters LTD. “What a great organization for an even greater cause. It is such an awesome privilege to give back to the men and women in our armed services. They assure us the freedoms that we enjoy in the United States of America.”
Bushman, who has helped take more than 400 wounded veterans on hunting trips, believes all American hunters recognize that our veterans have given us the freedoms that we enjoy yet sometimes take for granted. “One of those freedoms is the Second Amendment, which is strongly tied to what I believe is a right to go hunting in America,” he said. (This is part of the reason NRA created the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum: to stand with the NRA Institute for Legislative Action and fight for hunting the way it has always fought for the Second Amendment.)
“Hunting is probably one of the most therapeutic avenues for veterans,” said Ken Sutherby, HFTW Director of Outdoor Adventures. “Often veterans are experiencing extreme social isolation and a dependence on prescription medication. The result often is declining health and self-worth as they evaluate their current lifestyle compared to the former rewarding and challenging military life.”
The collective hunting community commends programs such as the HFTW Outdoor Adventures Program for providing adaptive opportunities for wounded heroes to get back into the great outdoors. Service members who previously embraced an outdoors lifestyle as well as those new to traditional outdoor sports are introduced to recreational opportunities on the road to recovery.
In truth, American hunters have long shared their outdoor experiences with veterans, many who live with the results of devastating battlefield injuries and struggle to continue treks into the fields and forests. HFTW and Buckmasters are two groups that dedicate their resources to making sure veterans get to enjoy the outdoors to aid in the process.
“The veterans are greeted with genuine appreciation from the entire staff, celebrities and volunteers,” said Sutherby. “The guides work tirelessly to get the veterans on the besting hunting areas, making sure every guest’s hunt is successful. If we can take a veteran afield, it is an honor and a pleasure, as well as one small way of saying thank you.”
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About the Hope for the Warriors (HFTW): Founded in 2006, Hope For The Warriors is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to restoring a sense of self, family and hope for post 9/11 veterans, service members and military families. Since its inception, it has served approximately 19,000 people through multiple support programs focused on transition, health and wellness, peer engagement and connections to community resources. HFTW was co-founded by Robin Kelleher, who serves as president and CEO. Kelleher’s leadership and passion has led what was once a grassroots effort to national heights. The NRA is proud to say that Kelleher also sits on the NRA Disabled Shooting and Military and Veteran committees. HFTW’s Outdoor Adventures program was launched in 2010. In 2012, it was expanded to include spouses and children of wounded and fallen service members as HFTW welcomed the therapeutic benefits for family members.
For accompanying photos, visit: http://bit.ly/2nwr8s7.
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