Dressed in orange and bundled up against a blustery spring day, 18 combat vets descended upon the small town of Karval for a hunt with Colorado Blue Cliff Pheasants.
Many in the close-knit community of Karval showed their support, offering their time and resources. The local German Wirehaired Pointer association volunteered guides, so that we ended up with five groups of hunters with two guides apiece.
The day began with skeet shooting at the range, which proved to be a challenge with the wind. Then, after the practice session, we headed out to the Colorado Blue Cliff Pheasants hunting preserve.
Ten of the soldiers came from Fort Carson’s Warrior Transition Battalion, some nearly finished with their rehabilitation and others just arrived.
One of such was Brandi, who suffered a back injury and also contends with combat-induced post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She’s taking care of her two children as she heals, while her husband is in Michigan looking for work and a new home for their family. Nevertheless, she was eager to hunt.
Eric, another from Fort Carson, is recovering alone, as his family is away getting ready to move to Phoenix in the fall.
The other eight hunters were all wounded veterans.
Jason was a master sergeant, who served overseas. After a traumatic brain injury and PTSD, he landed on a medical watch. Then, while on a skiing trip, Jason damaged his spine, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. He used a motorized track chair on the day of the hunt, which happened to be the one-year anniversary of his injury.
Richard, another soldier, can walk today, but at one point he was paralyzed too. Walking and standing are still not easy, but he persists. While serving in Afghanistan, Richard was shot in the wrist, and he is scheduled for more surgery to improve the use of that hand.
But it was last year when tragedy struck. He and other service members were being honored during a parade in Midland, Texas, when the float on which he was riding was hit by a train. In the act of saving his wife’s life, he broke his back. Four of the veterans did not make it.
Having “walked away” from that accident and pursuing a slow but steady recovery, Richard dedicates his time to helping other wounded soldiers find healing in the outdoors. He brought four combat vets with him to this hunt.
With the mobility issues and injuries, it took a while to get out to the field. But the triumph that followed the effort was worth the wait. Each hunter took two birds, which was quite satisfying.
Jason, battling a restricted range of motion, finally hit his bird and exclaimed, “I did it! I can still hunt!” It was clearly a turning point.
The groups eventually made their way back to “base” for a wonderful lunch prepared by the Karval volunteers.
We can’t say enough about the generosity of Blue Cliff Pheasants and the other supporters. Freedom Alliance supplied the ammunition and a bit of food, but the Karval folks did the rest.
And our service members from Fort Carson and elsewhere … we hope you all consider yourselves a member of the Freedom Alliance family, and we look forward to seeing you next time.
You all are our heroes!