Thoughts from the Outdoor Legend’s Tour by Brenda Valentine

Over a year ago I was contacted by Armed Forces Entertainment and Paralyzed Veterans of America about being among a selected few for a  special mission called the “Outdoor Legend’s Tour”. The plan was for a small group of hunting personalities representing the North American hunting community to visit troops inside a war zone and personally thank them for their service and sacrifices. This was not to be a big production entertainment-type tour but rather a personal handshaking marathon trip with stops to as many camps as possible. This kind of mission had never been attempted and every detail would have to be carefully orchestrated if it was to be carried out safely and successfully.

Gazing out the window of Flight 700 headed to Frankfurt, Germany, I watched the last fragment of U.S. soil near Philadelphia, PA slowly fade from sight while pondering what lay ahead for our small group of pioneers.

Members of this small diverse group consisted of Bill Miller from Minnesota,  a pillar of the outdoor media world and an all-around nice guy. Bill was at the helm of the huge “North American Hunter” magazine and TV show for 28 years and has extensive gun and hunting knowledge.  While Bill is experienced with all types of hunting, his specialty is waterfowl and upland birds with a real love for training sporting dogs.

Jim Shockey, a world renown big game hunter and award-winning TV host. Jim is from Canada and a wise choice for this mission since so many Canadian military men are serving alongside our US troops and allies from so many countries. His trademark black cowboy hat was recognizable to hunters from everywhere.

Retired Lt. Col. Lew Deal, is a former Navy cobra pilot that now works with Armed Forces Entertainment among other military and veterans organizations. We were all glad to have someone along to advise us on military protocol. Although Lew was our official escort he soon became just one of the guys.

Ronnie (Cuz) Strickland, from Missouri and the man behind the many successful Mossy Oak TV productions as well as a recognizable hunting personality was schedule to be a part of our group from the get-go however the timing for the trip occurred during a family health crisis. I really felt bad for Cuz since it was truly in his heart to support and commend our fighting men and women in the field.

I completed this diverse quartet. And, there is no doubt in my mind that the many service people I met from the southern US appreciated hearing a familiar accent with a sincere “Thank Y’all”.

A view through the glass window of the boat. Beautiful!

Our group met at dawn for the first time at the Frankfurt airport after all night flights. The good news was that there was a driver in a big red bus there to meet us. The bad news, we couldn’t check into our hotel rooms until 2:30 that afternoon. As much as our bodies were screaming for rest, our adventuresome spirits were chomping at the bit to explore. We decided to charter a boat up the Rhine River. We were fascinated by the towering granite castles amongst the miles of well-maintained vineyards, both defying time and progress as the river rolled on.

 

Lunch was in a quaint old villa near the river. Ancient grape vines adorned the canopies in this open-air dining venue. I was enjoying the ambience of the experience with unfamiliar background music and other diners chatting in unknown tongues when a rocking blast of “Cotton Eye Joe” spit out of speakers someplace. The tune and music was the same but the words were being sung in German. How is that for a hybrid culture?

Enjoying the open-air dining.

A pork lovers dream!

It took me a long study of the menu to decide on what to order.  Mainly because I couldn’t read it and if I could figure out the words I wasn’t sure what it was. A “pig knuckle” sounded pretty wholesome and something I could identify with however, I didn’t expect it to be the better part of a hog’s leg. Bill and I had enough pork to share with everyone. So far, I’m digging these German ways. Two-stepping music and pig knuckles, what else could a country girl want?

 

Stay tuned for more updates from the Outdoor Legend’s Tour.

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