Editor’s Note: Lew Deal, retired Lieutenant Colonel of the U.S. Marine Corps, joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 1975 and retired in 1999. In the Marines, Deal flew Cobra gunships and while on active duty, developed a passion for helping wounded veterans. Now he’s Mossy Oak’s representative and partner with the Paralyzed Veterans of America Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (PVA-ORHF). This week, he’ll tell us about the purpose and mission of the PVA-ORHF, and some of the hunts they have partnered with Mossy Oak to sponsor.
This past spring, we put on an all-ladies turkey hunt at Dee DOT Timberland near Jacksonville, Florida. The picture in most people’s minds of a wounded veteran is a man who’s been in combat and suffered a life-changing injury. But on this turkey hunt, we had one lady who had fought in the war, one whose husband had fought and died for his country and the spouses of two severely-wounded soldiers. By the end of the hunt, there wasn’t a dry eye in the camp. Some of these ladies had husbands who had gone on three or four tours of duty and had come back wounded and in bad shape. These ladies had taken care of them. They needed an opportunity have a few days in the outdoors free of stress. We also hope to help with outdoor recreation for the children of our severely-wounded veterans in the future.
We’ve learned through working with our wounded veterans that after 10 years of war, the wounds still continue after the war is over. When you have a serviceman or woman with an injury, they have to come home and live with that injury. It not only affects the person who has been injured, but also impacts the entire family. We want to help the people who have served our country and their families. One of the best ways we have to re-engage youngsters of wounded veterans is get them together with their moms and dads in the outdoors. We can get these children away from their Xboxes and TVs and give them outdoor experiences.
We’ve taken a lot of people hunting who never have hunted previously. They’ve hunted bad guys, but not animals. After a day or two of hunting, we’ll hear comments like, “Where has hunting been all my life?” On our ladies’ turkey hunt, each of the ladies took a turkey. Dee DOT Timberland where we hunted is owned by the Davis family that started Winn-Dixie, and they allow us to hold a veterans’ hunt twice a year on their property.