Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan accepted an invitation from Raleigh-native Gene Pleasants to hunt on private land donated by Louisburg, North Carolina, volunteers. Soldiers, Marines, a Sailor, and an Airman—nine in all—gathered for the weekend hunt, sponsored by Freedom Alliance and Combat Warriors.
Troops began to arrive early Friday morning for the event. Three deer were harvested that first day, and the hungry hunters enjoyed a pig roast that evening, which was prepared by Vietnam veteran Earl Eakes, who is disabled from exposure to Agent Orange.
During dinner, Freedom Alliance staff member Pepper Ailor spoke to the group regarding the recent loss of a Marine who had helped to organize this event. Chief Warrant Officer Gary Stouffer was killed when a train struck a parade float carrying wounded service members in Midland, Texas, on November 15.
“We honor his service,” Pepper said, “by serving his comrades.”
After the meal, “the comrades” assembled at Mavis Nelms’s grand cabin south of town, which would serve as their lodging for the next couple of nights. Here an auction of giveaways was held, comprised of hunting trips to Primland Resort and Arrowhead and Anderson Creek Hunting Preserves. A slew of outdoor gear was sorted out from Big Rock Sports and their vendors, including two crossbows, ghillie suits, tackle boxes, gun cases, gun cleaning kits, and more. Each service member was the recipient of at least two high-quality items. In addition to the raffle prizes, each hunter came away with a soft cooler filled with hunting equipment, two orange caps, and a Ducks Unlimited shirt.
At dawn on Saturday the troops scattered to the tree stands in anticipation of the morning movements of the deer.
Lance, a Marine who survived multiple IED blasts in Iraq, laughed, “I’m like a little kid—I can’t stop laughing. I love the outdoors!”
A hot-dog-and-chili lunch, served by Fellowship Gun Club, awaited the gang at the cabin at noon. Among the volunteers from the gun club were fellow veterans and one Gold Star Father. Ed Elliot, the club president, lost his son, Specialist Lucas Elliot, in Iraq in 2011. He bonded instantly with the troops that came to hunt—a mutual admiration.
Later that afternoon, the men headed back into the woods to finish the day’s hunt. At sunset, Mr. Pleasants’s phone began ringing as the hunters and volunteers checked in to report the day’s kills—a total of five more deer harvested. Local businesses provided processing and taxidermy.
Mr. Eakes prepared a second lavish spread that night—slow-roasted prime rib roasts—enough to feed an army of ravenous hunters.
Following their weekend of relaxation, recreation, and good eating, the troops left with grateful satisfaction. A heartfelt thank you to the community of Louisburg and all the donors (see below) who made this event spectacular … especially Gene Pleasants, who worked earnestly to give back to those who give so much to protect our homes and country.
Barrett Twitty, Wilson, N.C.—meat for Friday night meal
Clay Culpepper, co-owner of Big Ed’s City Market Restaurant, Raleigh, N.C.—prime rib loins for the Saturday night meal
Fellowship Hunting Club, Castalia, N.C.—breakfasts and lunches
James Farrar, Anderson Creek Hunting Preserve, Lillington, N.C.—two-person quail hunt with guide and dogs
Spike Smith, Arrowhead Hunting Preserve, Ayden, N.C.—two-person quail hunt with overnight stay
Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Moss, Moss Foods, Louisburg, N.C—food, drinks, and snacks
Jeffrey Pearce, Pearces Custom Processing—processed two deer at no cost and the rest at 50% discount
Mavis Nelms, Louisburg, N.C.—cabin accommodations
Wayne Rigsbee, Rigsbee Restaurant—Sunday lunch
Spencer Loftin, Loftin’s Taxidermy, Louisburg, N.C.—mount for largest buck
B. J. Brewer, Brewer Taxidermy, Louisburg, N.C.—mount for second largest buck
Wayne Decker—five deer mounts
Wayne Decker, Big Rock Sports, Burlington, N.C.—two crossbows, hunting suits, jackets, camo bags filled with various hunting items, deer calls, and ammo from Federal.
Primland—2 pheasant hunts
Ray Page and Dean Dixon, Southern Piping Company of Wilson, N.C.—840 pounds of shelled corn, which they distributed; took troops to land they lease
Roger Thompson, Archers Lodge, N.C.—50% discount corn
25 60-lb. bags of corn donated by Tim McKibben, The Store; Will Murphy, Murphy Hay Farm; Mike Bell, Bell Farm; Shane Mitchell, Mitchell Hardware; and Stancil Moss, Toney Ace Hardware, Louisburg, N.C.