Walter Reed patients and staff maintain a close relationship with Freedom Alliance. Because of the military medical center’s proximity to our headquarters, we tend to make friends there frequently.
One of those friends, a Walter Reed liaison, is Landon, a Purple Heart recipient, who served in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan. Landon lives in Baltimore, and he doesn’t easily forget the soldiers under his care at the hospital, even after they move on to other parts of the country.
Two such men are Rob and Joe, who we met during their recovery at Walter Reed. Rob was shot in the head when an Iraqi soldier opened fire on him and his comrades during a deployment. Joe stepped on an explosive while patrolling in Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne.
With Freedom Alliance, Landon recently flew to Texas to meet up with Rob and Joe, who are now medically retired from the military.
Since we were already in the Lone Star State, we had the opportunity to include David, who served two tours as a Cavalry Scout (a reconnaissance specialist). We first encountered David in 2011 while he was recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio.
The BAMC connection put us in touch with Dustin and Armen, two combat veterans who work to get other soldiers involved with organizations such as Freedom Alliance. They brought along to our little gathering Phil, a Marine military policeman; Kyle, an Army soldier who lost a leg during combat; and Johnny, another amputee as a result of service.
Through our supporters Gerald and Virginia Lindholm, who coordinate the Costa Rica Heroes Vacation, we were introduced to Rip and Donna Wallace of the 101 Bar Ranch in Swinney Switch, Texas. After hearing about Freedom Alliance from the Lindholms, the Wallaces wanted to do something for military veterans.
This unselfish couple offered to host a group out at their Texas ranch for an overnight dove hunt, and, as you already know, we had assembled an outstanding crew ready for a great time.
We convened at the 101 Bar Ranch with our nine vets just in time for lunch. Rip, Donna, and their son Brett put together a delicious beef brisket meal at the hunting camp, which comprised several indoor gathering rooms, bunks for sleeping, and an outdoor eating space.
The troops ate like hungry cattlemen and sat in the shade to chitchat, catching up with friends or getting to know one another. Gerald Lindholm had special hats and cooler bags made to give as gifts to the men on this occasion; the embroidery read “Freedom Alliance Heroes Dove Hunt.”
Once the sun started to lower, we packed into vehicles for a tour of the 101 Bar Ranch. The weather had turned cool, and along the drive out we saw movements of elk, antelope, deer, turkeys, and cattle.
Destined for a mass of vegetation called “dove weed,” we eventually climbed from our caravan and prepared to do some shooting. The doves have a hearty appetite for the thistle-like seeds in the brush, and that combined with cooler temperatures made this the perfect setting and timing for a dove hunt.
By the time the sunset was at its most colorful, the men had taken around 75 birds. Some of the fellows fired off rounds like they were spitting sunflower seeds, and we spent many cases of shotgun shells.
Having returned back to camp, Rip grilled colossal sides of beef, all in all about 20 pounds worth, and the sight of the meal had the guys pulling out their cameras to “share” with their friends. The joke was, “If you haven’t seriously injured yourself by eating, it’s your own fault!”
After the indulgent consumption and day of shooting, many of the guests hit the sack early. In the morning, the men said goodbye and thanks to the Wallaces, and some stayed later to shoot clay pigeons.
“We couldn’t have had a better time,” Armen said. “It was perfect.”
This event not only demonstrated the Wallaces’ support for military service members, but it also served as an outlet for troops who are trying to muddle through disabilities received during tours of combat.
A bit of recreational fun, a group of guys with a common history, and people who care can make a big difference.