Letterkenny Army Depot (LEAD) Natural Resources Branch, in coordination with the Letterkenny Munitions Center, hosted the annual Wounded Warrior Hunt and the Hunt of a Lifetime on Thursday and Friday, December 3 and 4, 2020.
For the past 13 years, LEAD has teamed up with the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Whitetail Warrior Project, Inc. to host deer hunts for severely wounded, ill and injured Soldiers, veterans and their families. LEAD also partners with the non-profit organization, Hunt of a Lifetime, to grant hunting opportunities to children under age 21 who have been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses or life-threatening disabilities.
Since 2007, LEAD has held 33 hunts for 93 Soldiers and family members from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the National Whitetail Warrior Project, Inc. “These hunts at LEAD provide Soldiers the opportunity to get into the woods, spend time in nature, foster relationships with other Soldiers, and if the hunters are lucky enough, the opportunity to harvest a big buck or doe,” Craig Kindlin, LEAD Natural Resources manager remarked.
This year four retired recovering Soldiers were sponsored by the National Whitetail Warrior Project, Inc. – Chief Warrant Officer 3 Sheldon Yeagley, Lykens; Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russell Owens, Adams Center, New York; Cpl. Benjamin Chapman, Purple Heart recipient, Alton, Illinois, and Spc. Joshua Coggins, Purple Heart recipient, southern Illinois. Two hunters were sponsored by Hunt of a Lifetime, Dakoda Blair, 17, Huntingdon, and Sawyer Bell, 8, Shermans Dale, to participate in this year’s hunt. Assisted by the LEAD Natural Resources Branch, volunteers and staff, the hunters harvested 5 bucks and 2 doe. Hunting licenses were donated to the recovering Soldiers by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
“After recovering from surgery, the Wounded Warrior Hunt is one of the first recreational opportunities in which many Soldiers participate,” Chief Warrant Officer 4 Russ Owens shared. “The first time I participated in the LEAD Wounded Warrior Hunt, I had to use a stick to steady my rifle,” Owens continued. “After the first day of hunting and the outpouring of support provided to me by the volunteers and LEAD staff, I realized that my life could return to normal.” Owens has returned to LEAD on an annual basis to attend the Wounded Warrior Hunt to mentor and support recovering Soldiers. Cpl. Benjamin Chapman provided his insight regarding the LEAD hunt, “I have been hunting for about 20 years; hunting isn’t always about harvesting an animal, it is also about creating family bonds and friendships.”
Sawyer Bell, an 8-year-old fighting Rhabdomyosarcoma, and Hunt of a Lifetime participant, has two years’ experience hunting and was looking forward to a harvest. “I am excited and very grateful for the Hunt of a Lifetime and Letterkenny Army Depot for inviting me and my dad to come today,” Bell shared. Dakoda Blair, a 17-year-old with Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus, shared that he looked forward to a fun and exciting day filled with big bucks.
Hunt of Lifetime volunteers Vicky Lauer and Grant Fritz attended the LEAD hunt in support of the Hunt of a Lifetime participants. Lauer became involved in Hunt of a Lifetime 19 years ago after the 3D archery club she was a member of coordinated a fundraiser for Hunt of a Lifetime. “While the kids are out in the field hunting, they forget for a few days that they are sick,” Lauer said. “We freely give of our time year after year at hunts in various cities and states in order to make miracles happen for the children.” Fritz became involved with Hunt of a Lifetime after reading an article in the Pennsylvania Game News magazine. “I would do anything to help these children realize their dreams and rekindle their spirits,” Fritz shared.
Prior to the start of the hunt, a luncheon provided by the Letterkenny Rod and Gun Club afforded participants the opportunity to get acquainted with other hunters, volunteers, staff and Col. Gregory Gibbons, commander, LEAD. “The effort the LEAD natural resources staff members and volunteers put into the hunts to benefit the recovering Soldiers and children is remarkable. Without their dedication and hard work, these hunts would not happen,” Gibbons said. The hunts have become an integral part of the depot’s community outreach efforts. “The Wounded Warrior Hunt and the Hunt of a Lifetime provide an opportunity for LEAD to give back to hunters in the surrounding communities and Soldiers across the Nation,” Dean Stouffer, director, LEAD Department of Public Works stated.
Letterkenny Army Depot is the organic maintenance facility that provides overhaul, repair and modifications for tactical missile air defense systems, electric power generation equipment and various military vehicles, support systems and protection programs. Letterkenny Army Depot was established in 1942 and is a government owned and operated industrial installation located in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
For more information about LEAD, visit https://www.letterkenny.army.mil/.