On the Oregon state border sits a small town called Weiser, Idaho, where two rivers converge between foothills, making for prime orchards and farmland. It is here that the incomparable Weiser Ranch maintains its lands exclusively for bird hunting.
At the beginning of November, the investors of the ranch joined with Freedom Alliance to bring five combat veterans, all injured in Iraq or Afghanistan, to Weiser for a complimentary pheasant hunt.
Marine Corporal Bret first endured an AK-47 round to the thigh in Iraq. Only a few months later he was injured a second time when his convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber in a vehicle.
Gunnery Sergeant John spent 13 years in the Marine Corps as a scout/sniper, and suffered nine gunshot wounds over a five-year period.
Army Staff Sergeant Daniel lost his right leg and damaged his left when he stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan.
Also serving in Afghanistan, Staff Sergeant Spencer’s unit was attacked by a suicide bomber; as a result, Spencer lives with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Marine Sergeant Dave also suffers a traumatic brain injury after three combat tours and exposure to multiple blasts.
These five fine men may have been physically harmed and mentally bruised, but their energy and zeal for life is not defeated.
They met Freedom Alliance supporters, Jim Stewart (founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee) and Carl Rey (who manages hunting properties throughout the American West), at the Boise airport. While subsequently visiting the local Cabela’s to purchase hunting licenses, Carl suggested we add a duck hunt to Saturday morning. The troops eagerly agreed.
Jim and Carl then put our men up at the ranch house and gave them a tour of the grounds, which are staggeringly beautiful. The vets followed in astonishment, as their hosts pointed out the pond, from where the guys would be duck hunting, and the cornfields, which would be the venue for the pheasant hunt.
As the anticipation for the coming days swelled, Jim prepared a special roast of elk meat for dinner. The fellows indulged while telling “funny” and harrowing tales from the war.
The next day, all were up and ready before dawn. Dressed warmly in camouflage, a couple of guys rowed out in a boat, while the others positioned themselves in the duck blind or in the reeds on the bank. Hundreds of ducks made a spectacular show, circling the pond and causing great excitement.
After a couple of hours, the hunters retrieved their birds, headed back to the ranch house for a quick bite to eat, and then were back out with the bird dogs to flush out the pheasants from the cornfield. They could only shoot the males, called roosters, which have prominent markings. The dogs chased out plenty of roosters, and every man took his daily limit.
Hunting was followed by a group photograph, which Carl says will be printed and proudly displayed in the Weiser Ranch house. This was followed by another bountiful meal and storytelling.
And the piece de resistance? An hour-long, full-body massage for all five of our war fighters—a perk they certainly deserve and which left them totally relaxed.
John expertly articulated the importance of this trip for himself and the other troops. “The hunting was the bonus,” he said, “and it was fantastic. But it’s the brotherhood that made the difference.”
Indeed the abounding camaraderie was as captivating as the exquisite mountain views.
John also penned a few words of thanks for the generous people who make these events possible for our heroes wounded in combat:
“Good men care for themselves; better men care for their families; great men care for complete strangers.”
Although John meant that sentiment for our donors, this happens to be what our military service members do every day. It so happens that Freedom Alliance supporters know the importance of returning the favor.