All over the country, November 11 is set aside for Veterans Day observances. You will see local, regional, and national events planned to thank and honor all those who served honorably in the military — in wartime and peacetime. Veterans Day is intended to thank living veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to recognize the fact that all those who serve or served – not only those who died in the line of duty – have sacrificed and done their duty.
I have been honored to spend much of my spare time working with military heroes all over the country, helping them cope with injuries sustained during this current conflict, as well as previous wars. When I say it is my honor, I truly mean that in every sense of the word. Spending time in goose blinds, deer stands, or in a duck boat with heroes who thought much of these activities would no longer be options for them has been the most rewarding work I’ve ever experienced.
One hunt in particular stands out involving a young Marine that I’d hunted with several times. After many hunts and spending our share of time around a campfire, he simply mentioned that his girlfriend expressed an interest in learning what hunting is all about. I told him we could arrange that easily.
We selected the day that suited both of them and I gladly began the planning. We would be hunting near my home, about an hour from Washington D.C., where they both serve in our military. I lined up my family members to assist with constructing a makeshift goose blind to accommodate his wheelchair and another seat for her. We needed something portable for strategic placement, allowing us to get the wind direction and decoy spread just right, and providing the best shooting opportunity available.
The next thing I decided to do was sacrifice my own comfort and Próis™ Hunting gear made especially for women for his girlfriend. That’s right, it wasn’t easy, but I knew January would be bitter on Maryland’s eastern shore. And after all, this was about her. It was her first outdoor hunting experience in 20-degree weather with moderate wind chill, making it feel like the teens. If she gets cold, this could make or break any future involvement. I bundled her up, activated six hand warmers, lent her Muck boots to wear. For added comfort, I lit my Coleman catalytic heater and remembered a thermos of hot chocolate. After getting them in position, I sat directly behind them, along the hedgerow on the water’s edge and we waited for birds to fly. I was within earshot to hear them quietly laughing and joking and she was full of questions related to the anticipation of the hunt. I could tell she was having fun and I was proud to be a part of it.
We shot plenty of geese that chilly morning and he was grateful to everyone for making her first hunt especially comfortable. We cleaned his limit of two geese and sent them home with goose breasts. He talked about cooking them several different ways and told her they tasted a lot like roast beef, something to which she could relate.
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been coordinating a variety of hunts for our wounded war veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans from previous conflicts. What drives me to do this? I will tell you. While hunting in Alaska, a wounded soldier confided for the first time since his injury he hasn’t had to take his anxiety medication. Another soldier suffering from traumatic brain injury and severe depression felt a turkey hunt in Kentucky was truly the turning point leading to the beginning of his recovery.
Perhaps you know a veteran who could use some nudging from a friend or relative to get out hunting or fishing. I encourage you to do so and get involved. The rewards cannot be measured and I can’t even begin to convey what it means to witness success at its finest.
Most of you reading this have loved ones who’ve proudly served our country sometime in history. For me, it’s my 88-year old grandfather, William Schisler, who lives in Maryland. He seldom ever talks about his service during World War II. I marvel at the thought of what he witnessed on the beaches of the Normandy invasion in 1944. Not only is he my grandfather, he is my hero.
This Veterans Day, make it a point to say “thank you” to all Veterans- Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard- active duty and retired- for their service and sacrifices for you, your family and to the United States of America.
For more information or to donate to Operation: 100,000 Patriots, go to PVA Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund website at www.pvaheritagefund.org The fund, a 501(c)(3), incorporates the traditional outdoor pursuits of hunting, fishing and shooting, along with other outdoor activities, to help wounded veterans rehabilitate and reestablish important connections with post-injury daily life.
Christina Holden is a member of the Próis™ Hunting Pro-Staff team. She discovered hunting several years ago, after realizing her dad and two brothers were having too much fun in the woods, duck blinds and goose pits. Born and raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, she hunts deer and waterfowl extensively where her family hunts on their own property as well as lands they lease. Her desire to explore outside of the east led her to buy into a cabin with family and friends in Colorado. Since then, she has claimed mule deer, antelope and has broadened her experience with a recent hunt to Africa. Christina works with Jim Zumbo on a wounded warrior program, where she plans, coordinates and assists with all logistics for disabled veterans on hunting trips around the country and the world. At this point, she has assisted on a dozen hunts and has many more in the works. Stay tuned as Christina’s involvement in the hunting industry continues to expand!