I received the following email from my friend, Albert Kittredge. I found it inspiring and, with his permission, wanted to share it with all of you. Have a great Thanksgiving!
This past week I spent some time with some real fine people. We were not only in the company of many of our nation's Wounded Warriors but found ourselves surrounded by some of the best "salt of the earth" citizens that America has to offer. The Caldwell Hunting Club and The Caldwell Community have been hosting a Handicap / Wounded Warrior Deer Hunt for the past several years and I'm proud to say that for the past three years they have asked me to help coordinate with Ft Bragg and Camp Lejeune for hunters. This year we took 20 to the hunt.
First order of business was collecting everyone at the Caldwell Community Center at 1:00 pm on November 17th and having everyone sign in.
Welcome by Earl Brown of the Caldwell Community and introduction to many of the landowners and guides who we would be working with for the next two days.
Rules of conduct for the hunt, safety briefing and general administration so that everyone is on the same sheet of music. We were then paired up with our landowner / guides and led to various quadrants of this vast farming community for posting on fixed stands.
Most stands overlooked fields which had recently been growing corn, soybeans or wheat. Many had been over seeded with rye after the primary crop was harvested. Some, but not many, were located in the hardwoods where an abundant acorn crop had recently fallen.
Once all shooting light was gone our guides came back to pick up the hunters and any deer harvested. This yearling buck was just one of many harvested the first evening. Mike Davis, a Vietnam Vet and the founder of Vietnam Combat Veterans, Ltd. (VET-NET) acted as scribe or administrative assistant for the hunt. This freed up leaders from the Caldwell Hunt Club so that we could react to little glitches whenever they occurred.
All deer had to be registered with the NCWRC prior to going to the skinning pole. Thankfully this can be done via telephone.
This 13 year old and her Wounded Warrior dad are justifiably proud of the buck she shot on the first evening hunt. I was told it was well over 150 yards away so this little girl can shoot. She continued out there like a real trooper for the next two days. I am sure she has a lot of stories to tell her classmates when she returns to school.
The Caldwell Hunting Club had a skinning crew who took over once the deer was assigned a check in number. These folks had the skinning down pat and it did not take long to strip off the choice cuts of boneless meat which quickly went into coolers and then covered with ice.
Blessing before each meal. Pledge allegiance to the flag and singing of "Star Spangled Banner" first evening by local vocalist. These folks act and live the way some of us old timers remember from our youth. Maybe there is hope yet!
All meals were provided during the hunt. Meals came courtesy of the local FFA (Future Farmers of America) with tons of delicious deserts prepared by wives and mothers in the community. We were housed in the Hillsborough Microtel Motel (yes we were spoiled).
Several nice bucks taken during the hunt. This recently retired Wounded Warrior shot the bigger twin to this one the next day. (Some guys have all the luck)
First deer for this 17 year old son of a Wounded Warrior who proudly displays streaks of blood on his cheeks as a rite of passage. (Landowner / Guide on left)
We were not the only hunters in the woods. This coyote fell to the sharp eye and straight shooting of one of our landowner / guides.
Another nice buck - this one shot by the Wounded Warrior on the right but his buddy on the left was handy to help retrieve it. You can tell by the smiles they both have forgotten all about their next round of medical appointments.
This husband / wife team, both Wounded Warriors, shot doubles on the last morning.
Roaring fire at the skinning shed. Lots of folks working behind the scenes to make the event a success.
It don't get much better then this. We were surrounded with great people, no one got hurt and we all made some memories. We shot a total of 26 deer with a good number of them being respectable bucks. I am sure I speak for the Ft Bragg and Camp Lejeune participants when I say "THANK YOU to the Caldwell Hunting Club and the entire Caldwell Community. You made us feel special. It is events like this that go a long way towards making us feel we are appreciated and for those of us with ongoing medical issues you have helped us gain a sense of normality again".
(Majority of photos courtesy of Stephanie's Creative Photography - more photos at http://stephaniescreativephotography.zenfolio.com/p221570603 )