During a Freedom Alliance hunt some months ago in Louisburg, North Carolina, two troops won a pheasant hunt vacation package at Primland Resort during a raffle of giveaways. To sweeten the deal, Freedom Alliance decided to expand the prize, transforming the resort getaway into a pre-Valentine’s-Day romantic holiday that would include the ladies as well.
As it turned out, one original winner of the pheasant hunt had to cancel at the last minute, and we had the challenge of finding a replacement at short notice. Luckily John and Rachel, a couple we met in October during the Poppy’s Wish Heroes Vacation in Huntington Beach, came to mind. When we contacted John about making the five-hour drive from Camp Lejeune, he replied, “I’ve had the worse week. This would be just the thing to clear my head.”
Over a six-month timeframe in Afghanistan, John was involved in multiple IED blasts; today he suffers from facial nerve damage and a bulging disc, in addition to a traumatic brain injury and PTSD.
He and Rachel traveled to Meadows of Dan, Virginia—the home of Primland Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains—and coasted down the 12-mile driveway along the top of a ridge as the sun was setting over the horizon.
The other couple—Mariusz and Katrina—left Jacksonville, North Carolina, a bit later and arrived at the lodge at nightfall, welcomed and awed by a sky full of brilliant stars.
Mariusz, also known as “TKO”, was introduced to Freedom Alliance by fellow Marine Kevin, whose vehicle was hit by an IED during combat. It was TKO that pulled him out of the wreckage. TKO is from Poland, and he joined the Marine Corps to earn his citizenship. No one could pronounce his first name, and so his nickname comprises the last three letters of his last name.
During their stay, our two couples enjoyed Primland’s spa offerings and took advantage of the in-room dining service. But in addition to luxury accommodations and relaxing spa treatments, Primland is known as the outdoorsman’s dream resort. Over 12,000 acres is dedicated to hunting, fishing, ATV tours, hiking, geocaching (a treasure hunt using GPS), and horseback riding. The land is pristine and there are beautiful vistas everywhere you turn.
The assumption was that the women would enjoy the spa while their men hunted, but Rachel joined the hunt with John, and Katrina came along as the photographer. An expert guided the expedition and used dogs to flush out the birds. Altogether, the troops took 23 pheasants.
John posted the following report on Facebook: “Thank you Freedom Alliance for putting together a wonderful, relaxing end to a stressful week. The hunt was great and the views were amazing!” In addition to the post, there was a photo of John roasting “pheasant nuggets”—no doubt for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.