Last month we had the privilege of hosting five Special Forces servicemen to a pheasant hunt in Weiser, Idaho—a special edition in the Freedom Alliance Outdoor Adventure series.
This hunt is provided by Jim Stewart, founder of Seattle’s Best Coffee and the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie. Jim’s partnered with us to make this hunt possible for the last four years.
For this year’s trip to Idaho, we selected five soldiers from the U.S. Army Special Forces, the Green Berets. This was everyone’s first pheasant hunt, and York’s first hunt ever.
York spent 35 years in the Army, and 30 as a Green Beret, deploying three times to the Middle East and several times to Central and South America. As a U.S. Marshal, York was at Ground Zero on 9/11.
Such was the caliber of the soldiers we took to Idaho.
Jim Stewart met us at the airport in Boise with his friend Carl, who manages hunting properties for investors, and Dick, a Vietnam veteran who we knew from last year’s hunt.
In preparation for the weekend, we purchased hunting licenses and started out for Weiser River Ranches.
A plaque on the property is always a welcome sight to the service members who come to stay at the ranch, and this is what greeted our crew upon arrival:
This site is dedicated to the many United States Servicemen and Servicewomen who have served—and do serve—our Country, protecting its Freedom and Liberty. Our Special Thanks to our Special Forces and Their Families. You always have a home here.
The veterans were further spellbound when Keith, the ranch manager, drove up to say hello with an enormous elk head in the bed of his pickup. The men gathered around the truck, and the stories started spilling out as we got to know one another.
That evening, the men were treated to an elk roast, which was donated by Dick and grilled by Jim. In fact, we were fortunate to taste Jim’s homemade pies, as well as a salmon he bought at Seattle’s Pike Place Market, which was big enough to satisfy all 10 men!
One story that was shared was about when Chris and Stan served in Afghanistan. During a raid on a terrorist training camp, their team was suddenly ambushed by as many as 100 insurgents. What followed was an hour-long firefight.
Stan sustained a slight brain injury, hearing loss, burns and lacerations, and damage to his lungs. Chris was wounded by shrapnel. Both men were awarded Purple Heart medals for what happened that day.
The next morning, when Carl gave a safety briefing and described what the hunting process would look like, Chris said it sounded like the story he and Stan had told, except in that version, they had been the pheasants.
And so it was. The men would line up at the edge of a field while the dogs or volunteers flushed out the birds. Once they were airborne, the soldiers had no trouble finding their targets.
At lunch, Jim introduced the staff and volunteers to the five special guests.
“They aren’t going to brag about their service,” Jim said, “ so I will for them.” He let everyone know their combat history and exceptional records.
One of the Green Berets, also named Jim, served for 36 years, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star with Valor, and Purple Heart. He’s been deployed pretty much all over the world and seen a lot of combat.
On the final evening at Weiser River Ranches, Jim presented each benefactor with a challenge coin, stating his gratitude for what they were doing for military service members. (Challenge coins are a traditionally military token, often given by unit commanders to recognize the achievements of a unit member.)
Jim had never left his home state of North Carolina to hunt, and this experience had been the adventure he needed.
“The pheasant hunts were remarkably a fantastic time for our small group of Special Forces soldiers,” he said.
The other men echoed those remarks.
Jay is a 28-year veteran, who has also worked as a detective in our nation’s capital. He said, “This was one of the most memorable events I’ve experienced during my military career… Freedom Alliance is an organization that serves the Armed Forces with honor, making the sacrifices we make each day well worth it!”
In addition to plenty of pheasant meat to take home, these five men left with heads full of good memories and hearts full of appreciation.