“I am a Vietnam-era veteran. I love God and my country and believe in American freedom—the same freedom that so many take for granted. For me, it all begins with the Second Amendment and the right to protect myself and my family, to shoot and collect firearms, and to hunt—and to share my knowledge and pass on America’s firearms traditions with anyone who will listen.
I joined the Army in December 1971 and was medically retired in January 1987 due to a spinal injury following a parachute jump in 1986. Oddly, the PLF (parachute landing fall) was fine, but the next morning my left leg didn’t work. I guess hitting the DZ (drop zone) at 16 fps with 70-plus pounds of kit takes a toll. I spent a year at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and am now severely disabled, but at least I’m here to pen this. Waking up in the morning is a bonus.
Like a lot of veterans, I have a bad case of “survivor’s guilt.” I go to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and on the wall I see the names of young men I went to high school with in Pennsylvania. I appreciate the Veterans Day sentiment, but I think of how the heroes are all the guys who didn’t come back (and gals now, too). I did my duty and I am just a survivor. Like Maj. Dick Winters of “Band of Brothers” TV-series fame told his grandson, “I’m no hero, but I was honored to be in the company of them.”
I thank God that I don’t have PTSD. All I have is a blown-out spine and 80-percent hearing loss from a concussion grenade that was dropped near me in 1972. Guns, shooting and hunting are my passions, but I struggle to hunt because my back won’t allow me to sit comfortably for an extended period—or to ever drag a deer out of the woods.
The reality is that the United States has more combat veterans than every other nation. We veterans make up a very large percentage of gun owners, concealed carry permit holders and, yes, hunters. We are a big part of the reason that "America's Rifle" is now the AR-15. And we support the NRA.
My wish for Veteran’s Day is for Americans to stop what they’re doing for just a moment to reflect. Think about those who fought and continue to serve and fight for freedom. Think about those who gave all and who likely would do it all over again—if they could.”
The 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month
Veterans Day originally was called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I on Nov. 11, 1918—at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. President Woodrow Wilson celebrated the first Armistice Day in 1919. In 1938, it was recognized as a legal holiday by an act of Congress, and in 1954 President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued a proclamation acknowledging that the United States had been engaged in two wars since World War I and renamed it Veterans Day to honor all who served in the armed forces.
About the Author: Karen Mehall Phillips is the director of communications for the NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum and senior editor of NRA’s American Hunter. An avid rifle and bow hunter, she has hunted for 30 years and in 29 states, Canada, Italy, Finland, Germany, Spain, New Zealand, Greenland and Africa, including for two of the Big Five.
Karen draws on her experience to educate non-hunters on the critical role that hunters play in wildlife conservation worldwide and to inform them of the dangers anti-hunting extremists present to the future of wildlife conservation. She is invested in fighting America's culture war on hunters and hunting and works to shed light on anti-hunters’ blatant attempts to tout emotion and misinformation over scientific facts.
An NRA Endowment member, Karen worked in the NRA public relations arena prior to joining NRA Publications in 1998. She is the founding editor of two NRA official journals: America's 1st Freedom and Woman's Outlook. National writing awards include being named the 2015 Carl Zeiss Sports Optics Writer of the Year. She actively promotes women and families in the outdoors. She is also a member of the Washington metropolitan area's Fairfax Rod & Gun Club, a founding member of the Professional Outdoor Media Association, a member of Safari Club International and a Life member of the Dallas Safari Club and the Mule Deer Foundation. Follow NRA Hunters' Leadership Forum on Twitter @HuntersLead.