It’s unusual for me to feel small, despite my height. Though I consistently receive comments on my size, I don’t actually notice how short I am unless I see a photo of myself. It’s not to say I’ve never felt small before, either. A prime example how I felt at the Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) Family Day just outside Nashville, on Sat., Sept. 18, in Clarksville, Tenn. Surrounded by an enormity of such outstanding people, I definitely felt small … but wonderful.
Created to help disabled combat veterans return to their lives through outdoor activities, HAVA’s focus is to encourage them to strive, to see what they can accomplish and to build confidence. These heroes have preserved our freedoms as Americans; organizations like HAVA work to give back to those individuals. This particular event, sponsored by HAVA and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Foundation, launched the new Family Day Series, which focused on bringing the enjoyment of recreational shooting to families of these veterans, with designated and supervised areas for children, along with activities not only for the veterans, but also for their spouses and older children. Almost 400 people attended, including 100 children – who all went home with a prize.
I heard from Trevor Baucom, my Smith & Wesson teammate, about this upcoming weekend while at the 2013 SHOT Show in January. I knew it would be an incredible experience and an opportunity to give back. Yet, my expectations were not what I received: this event was far more than I imagined. HAVA held its event in an outstanding place – the Montgomery County Shooting Facility, which is near Fort Campbell. The people made the real difference. Realize that at any shooting match I’ve attended, people have been nice. This, however, was a totally different level of kindness. Everyone wanted to be there, everyone worked incredibly hard to keep the event running smoothly, and I found the most kind-hearted people I’ve ever met among the participants.
HAVA invited me to instruct the all-women Introduction to Firearms class, along with Kay Miculek (Smith & Wesson) and Allie Barrett (Volquartzen.) Attendees, mainly spouses of veterans, shared their stories – about moving, caring for children while husbands spent time deployed, and of course, homecomings. Their emotions made the related experiences so real to me that it gave me an even greater pleasure to help these women with whatever I could, especially what I could do best – shooting. These women caught on fast, and I saw some extremely talented female shooters that day. This class had an outstanding turn out, and the men there seemed interested in learning what their wives and daughters experienced.
The action didn’t stop there, or even start there! The day kicked off with a demonstration from several guest pro-shooters, including BJ Norris, Kay, Allie, and me.
The crowd cheered us on with every finished string, especially at BJ Norris’s lightning-fast draw-and-shoot drills. He got the crowd excited to start their day, of trying out all sorts of firearms and types of shooting: rifles, shotguns, action pistols, revolvers. The children’s area offered airsoft guns.
I spent time talking to Misty Schaper – a mother and a veteran – easily qualifying as one of the highlights of my day. Misty served for 10 years in the Army, and came to the event with her beautiful family, which includes her husband and 8-month-old daughter. “Normally, we hike and mountain bike, but don’t have many opportunities to shoot,” said Misty. She and her husband agreed that the free childcare ranked as on of the best parts of the HAVA event for them. “It was really convenient, I thought we were going to have to switch off baby-sitting,” she said, smiling at her baby girl.
With the childcare at the event, Misty and her husband could immerse themselves in the training and fun. And as the experience came to an end, she left me with this advice for women looking into military service: “I believe serving our nation is one of the best and most rewarding things anyone can do in their life. I don’t really have any special gender specific advice. Choosing to serve in the military is a challenging career choice, but I think the challenges and what you gain by meeting and surpassing them is part of what makes serving so unique and rewarding.”
Learn more about HAVA.