Resilience: Hunt benefits area wounded warriors
Retired CW3 Tony Vilardo is wrapped in a Quilt of Valor by volunteers during the Wounded Warrior Fall Hunt at West Beach Oct. 12.

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (October 17, 2013) -- The Wounded Warrior Fall Hunt enhanced the quality of life of Soldiers from the Southeast and even grew in both kills and participants despite being hindered by the government shutdown and summer furloughs.

Through local supportive sponsors, the fall hunt was deemed a success by participants and organizers alike, with one Soldier saying that the event helped him sleep, and another crediting it with his being able to better cope with post-traumatic stress.

CW3 Stuart Bennett, 1st Aviation Brigade, who uses the aid of his service dog, Jessie, to help him get through his workdays as well as his down time, said the hunt meant a lot to him because it enabled him to meet others like him.

"Being stationed here, I usually only see students, so it is nice to spend time and hunt with other wounded warriors," he said. "To be here and hear the stories of the guys you are with helps you get through whatever you might be going through. It makes it easier for us to participate and have a good time."

The title sponsor for the Wounded Warrior Fall Hunt was the Fort Rucker Thrift shop, which donated $5,000 to the cause.

"The funding this year was really bad, so we were not able to have some of our bigger door prizes that we had last year," said John Clancy, outdoor recreation and Lake Tholocco lodging program manager. "We have done really well as far as getting local people to sponsor the event. These local people really supported it while everyone is under budget constraints."

Though the event had funding constraints, it didn't stop 23 wounded warriors from participating.

"Normally, we have around 15 participates. So the participation this year was fantastic," said Clancy. "It is important to give back to the Soldiers who fought for this country and … that we take for granted. We had Soldiers come from Alabama, Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee."

This year the men killed 37 hogs and three coyotes, the biggest haul that the event has taken in the last three years, said Clancy.

"They do everything together. They talk about what is going on and their struggles. They vent to each other, and they talk to us and tell us about the things they would like to see and what they think would benefit others like them," said Clancy, adding that the event couldn't have happened without the help to feed the Soldiers that came from Gentiva Hospice, The Landing Zone and a local couple that fed them several meals.

This is the only event of its kind in the area because of the event's size, nature and function. The wounded warriors stayed in Lake Tholocco cabins, and the event is all expenses paid, Clancy said.

"The best part of this whole thing is just getting back out there," said Bennett. "Many of us don't like the title of wounded warrior. I know I am one, but it is hard for me to accept things, and . . . we have to realize that it's for our own good that people want to help you.

"As a Soldier, in the first place, we are too proud to ask for help, so to sit there and be told you are a wounded warrior is sometimes hard to swallow, but to have things like this, it makes you feel wanted and capable of doing the things you used to do," he added.

The local Quilts of Valor chapter sewed more than 25 quilts for the event to cover the participants touched by war with comfort and healing.

"Quilts of Valor does an amazing job with the quilts they make and supply to the Soldiers each year at this event," said Clancy. "It is very important that the Soldiers realize that there are many people thinking about them and to know that people haven't forgotten about them."

It is outdoor recreation's goal to purchase more equipment that wounded warriors can utilize, and it has a two-year goal to raise $53,000 to purchase a handicap-accessible travel trailer.

"People would be able to leave it here and they can utilize the trailer at our (recreational vehicle) park, or they can call and reserve it and they can take it to Montana or wherever they would like," said Clancy. "We decided on the RV after talking to our warriors. Many of them like to camp, but they don't have a means to. But, with the RV they would have the equipment they would need to have a fun camping trip with their Families."

Page last updated Fri November 8th, 2013 at 11:40