By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterOctober 12, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- More than a dozen wounded warriors from across the South participated in a three-day event meant to honor their service and sacrifice to the nation.
This year's Wounded Warrior Fall Hunt came to a close during a ceremony at West Beach on Lake Tholocco Oct. 7 where wounded warriors, veterans, friends and family members came together after the hunt, said John Clancy, Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation manager.
"This is about camaraderie, and giving wounded warriors an opportunity to open up around other people and meet new faces," he said.
During this year's hunt, participants brought in 21 hogs over the three-day period, and prizes were given for heaviest hog and most hogs harvested, both of which went to retired Col. Greg Estes, who served in the Alabama National Guard, with a 225-pound hog and a total of three hogs.
Although prizes were given out for heaviest and most hogs, the ceremony was less about the winner and more about honoring those who served and sacrificed.
Jacquelyn McKinstry, Quilts of Valor foundation Alabama state coordinator, attends the ceremony each year to honor veterans by providing them a Quilt of Valor, and this year was no different as 10 veterans were recognized during the ceremony.
"This is a wonderful event that I like to come to every year," she said. "We have a motto, and our mission statement is to cover all service members and veterans touched by war with a comforting and healing Quilt of Valor.
"Harry S. Truman said, 'Our debt to the heroic men and women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude and America will never forget their sacrifices,'" she quoted. "He said that in April of 1945 and it's still just as true [today]."
To date, the organization has given out 169,315 quilts nationwide, those honored with a quilt during the ceremony were: John W. Cook, Michael McCarrell, Felipe Chuab, Frederick Snodgrass, John Wise, Charles Reilly, Charles Palmer and Todd Tacia. Robert Sepulveda and Aaron Lefeat were also presented quilts but were not able to attend.
"We just want to thank all of our veterans -- we really, really appreciate them," said McKinstry.
McCarrell said the recognition is about providing veterans and wounded warriors a reminder that they are still part of the Army family.
"It's really great and it makes you feel like you have a family outside of your family," he said. "There are a lot of places, unfortunately, where you don't feel that way, but this isn't one of them."
McCarrell served in Iraq in 2005-2006 and received a Purple Heart on Aug. 14, 2006, after he took shrapnel from a bullet off of a truck during a firefight. It's events like the hunt that helps him and others move on from the atrocities they faced during combat.
"This is amazing and it gives us hope -- it gives us reason to press on," said the veteran. "There are a lot of veteran suicides -- they say 22 a day -- but you've got to live for the ones that died. You're able to do that around folks like this -- people who understand you more and understand what it is you're going through."
It's because of veterans like McCarrell that Clancy said it's imperative to support wounded warriors. That's why proceeds from each Wounded Warrior hunt is used to provide some sort of handicap accessible equipment or facility for wounded warriors, with this year's proceeds going toward funding a three-bedroom, handicap-accessible cabin that will be available for use by wounded warriors at no cost to them.
Over the years, funds raised through the hunt have provided numerous amenities for wounded warriors, including two hydraulic hunting stands; track chairs; a specially designed, handicap-accessible boat; and a 42-foot, wheelchair-accessible travel trailer.