Hunting trip = therapy for 6 wounded warriors
October 18, 2012
FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas - Six wounded warriors spent the day in the woods of central Texas hunting exotic game Oct. 11 as a therapeutic retreat.
Five of the wounded warriors, from the Warrior Transition Battalion, along with a wounded warrior who serves with U.S. Army North, took advantage of an opportunity to hunt an exotic animal of their choice, and to fish for Florida Bass, on a private central Texas game ranch.
The trip was organized by retired Army Lt. Col. Sid Trawick, who serves as the secretary for the Alamo Chapter of the Association of the U.S. Army. Maj. Gen. Adolph McQueen Jr., deputy commanding general for support, Army North, escorted the Soldiers.
The ranch provided guides and rifles for each Soldier. The tour started with weapons familiarization at a small range on the property, and the guides discussed the areas to focus on for hunting the exotic deer, antelope, sheep and bison on the ranch.
Spc. John Whittinghill, a transportation specialist, who was injured in an improvised-explosive device detonation in Afghanistan in November 2011, successfully hunted a spotted fallow deer -- the first successful hunt of the day. Whittinghill, a native of Muskogee, Okla., said he wanted to help organize hunting trips fellow wounded warriors when he finishes his rehabilitation at Fort Sam Houston and returns to Oklahoma.
"These hunting trips get Soldiers out of the barracks and get their minds off of their situation," said Whittinghill. "I enjoy the outdoors, getting away from everything. Hunting is a way to have a little fun and relax."
There are many activities for wounded warriors to participate in, but hunting is unique, said McQueen.
"It's very therapeutic for the Soldiers," said McQueen. "You're in nature; you're part of nature. I have seen the gleam in their eyes and their smiles as they validate their shooting skills in the woods."
For Spc. Michael Crawford, confined to a wheel chair after an IED blast in Afghanistan, the hunt was a first, other than dove hunting.
"The atmosphere makes it fun," said Crawford, a 21-year-old military policeman. "The ranch hands and volunteers are very hospitable. They actually enjoy talking to you -- and they make sure you get an animal of your choosing."
Crawford, a native of Vancouver, Wash., bagged a "9-point" Sika Deer for his first exotic game hunting trip. The Sika is a large, shaggy deer from eastern Asia.
"The meat - I'll share it with my girlfriend's parents for Christmas dinner," said Crawford.
Approximately 200 wounded service members have participated in hunting trips to more than 20 area ranches since Trawick started organizing the trips four years ago.
"I have three rules for ranchers who want to participate: You have to feed them; they get to shoot something, and you have to process the meat," said Trawick. The former Fort Sam Houston Dental Activity commander said many ranchers want to participate in hunting outings for wounded service members.
One of the volunteers participating in the hunt, who is not affiliated with the private game ranch, said he volunteered as a way to return the favor for service members who have sacrificed for the nation.
"It's just a giving back," said Darrell Taylor, a rancher and member of the Wounded Warrior Hunting Committee of the Houston Safari Club. "I just thank all these Soldiers from the bottom of my heart. You've got to count your blessings every day."
Leaders from Fort Sam Houston's Warrior Transition Battalion said they have seen positive impact from the events and the sponsored trips for the wounded service members.
"Having been given the great privilege and opportunity to participate in several wounded warrior events, I can personally attest to the positive impact these events can have on a wounded service member's psyche," said Capt. Christopher Brewer, assistant plans officer, WTB.
Some wounded warriors experience a sense of helplessness and depression after their injuries, said Brewer, but the trips and events build confidence and sometimes also lead to networking and jobs.
"There is nothing in the world like watching a Soldier re-attain the understanding that he or she can still effectively engage the world around him or her -- and, in some cases, gaining new interests and a newly impassioned spirit that leads to new professional employment opportunities."