BLUE GRASS ARMY DEPOT, Ky. - Drowned out by the roar of a dozen motorcycles from the Patriot Guard Riders, a police escort and the commander's Humvee, the Soldiers shouted and waved as they met their escorts just off of Interstate I-75 on a dark cold night on Nov. 19.

Thirteen wounded warriors were then escorted to Blue Grass Army Depot for a free weekend of food, fun, deer hunting and camaraderie.

Depot employees and area organizations opened their hearts and wallets in support of Soldiers from Fort Campbell and Fort Knox who are part of the Army's Wounded Warrior Program.

The weekend was designed to provide Soldiers injured in Iraq or Afghanistan with an opportunity to forget about their injuries and spend a weekend hunting deer. Some of the Soldiers had also participated in the depot's September deer hunt.

Blue Grass Army Depot commander Col. Joseph A. Tirone had visited Soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center's rehab center when he was stationed at the Pentagon and took wounded Soldiers to the National Rifle Association Museum and shooting range.

"We had a great time and at that point we knew that setting up a wounded warrior deer hunt would only be a matter of time," he said.

Tirone praised depot employees, family members, members of the local community and commercial organizations who donated their time, money, expertise, and hunting equipment to make the weekend a success.

"The wounded warriors were thrilled with the hunts, their guides and the support they received while at Blue Grass. The experience contributes significantly to Hooah or healing outside of a hospital" said Sgt. 1st Class Ron Gullion, Fort Campbell, Ky.

Sgt. Maj. Paul Baxter, depot military affairs, said that the goal was for the Soldiers to enjoy the hunting experience and have an "arm chair hunt."

"They could sit back and volunteers did all the work. We even had volunteers who field dressed the deer the Soldiers bagged and packed the meat in ice so they could take it home," he said.

The Patriot Guard Riders awarded challenge coins to each wounded warrior who arrived for both hunts.

"It's a testament to the way the employees here feel about Soldiers and veterans. We had a new group of riders trained by the Department of Defense and depot safety personnel meet and provide escort to these Soldiers," said Steve Verrigni, Patriot Guard senior ride captain.

Tim Robinson of the depot's environmental office said that there were so many volunteers some had to be turned away.

"It was a great opportunity for depot employees to meet and honor these Soldiers. Many of us made lifetime friends," he said.

Tirone, an avid deer hunter, added, "This is what it's all about, taking care of those who have made major sacrifices for our country. When the wounded warrior I was escorting shot his buck, I don't know which of us was more excited."

The Army Wounded Warrior Program is the official U.S. Army program that assists and advocates for severely wounded, ill, and injured Soldiers, veterans, and their families, wherever they are located, for as long as it takes. AW2 provides individualized support to this unique population of Soldiers, who were injured or became ill during their service in overseas contingency operations since 9/11.

Page last updated Wed December 9th, 2009 at 08:09