By Amber Avalona-Butler/ParaglideDecember 10, 2010
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Dec. 10, 2010) -- When Rachaelle Langmack's husband died in the line of duty, his absence left a hole in her son's life that she couldn't fill.
As a single mom, Langmack wanted her son Carson, 12, to develop skills like hunting and fishing and navigating the North Carolina great outdoors.
Enter Ken Barnard, former Army brat and founder of Patriot Hunts, a nonprofit organization dedicated to connecting wounded warriors with wilderness excursions. When Langmack met Barnard, the missing piece in her son's life began to take shape.
Langmack and Carson now participate in Patriot Hunts like the one held Saturday, a European tower pheasant shoot, hosted on the 2,000-acre Allen Brothers Hunting Preserve near Bladenboro, N.C.
"My husband was an avid hunter. This is something that he would be doing with (Carson). He's not here so I have to find ways to make that happen, and this is one of them," said Langmack, who has an older son in the Army.
The wounded warrior and Active Duty pheasant hunt is in its second year, according to R.J. Allen, who owns the Allen Brothers Hunting Reserve.
Allen donated the facility and provided lunch for participants, thanks to the culinary skills of Bladen County church members.
The Allen Family is closely connected to the military. Allen's father served in World War II and is a Purple Heart recipient. Allen is a veteran himself and sees the importance of supporting nonprofits like the Patriot Hunts.
"This is my Christmas present for myself and my family, to help those who serve us and keep us free," explained Allen.
In addition to a parachute drop by the Golden Knights, hunters gathered around a metal pheasant tower for a chance to shoot at 150 birds that were systematically released into the sky. Up to six shooters per station rotated from one hay bale to another, aiming everything from semi-automatic shotguns to Remington hunting rifles.
While a few birds flew into the trees, most left as 'prize pheasants' that were equally divided between hunters.
"These men and women have given up so much for this country, not only their time away from families, but sometimes their life and limbs. This experience dealing with these warriors has been one of the most rewarding and positive periods of my life," said Barnard, who will continue to promote the mission of Patriot Hunts as his own form of military service.