Weekend Hunting Trip

So, a lot has been going on here in Ft. Meade land.  I figured I’d give you loyal readers who’ve put up with my sporadic postings an update on it all.  I’ll post about the hunting trip I went on this past weekend, first.  Let’s see, what’ve we got here…

This past weekend was a blast!  We (several other soldiers in the Warrior Transition Unit and I) were invited down to Fredricksburg, VA for a hunting trip.  It was sponsored by Gander Mountain, the local chapter of the American Legion, the Mattaponi Hunt Club, and the [insert county I can’t remember but will edit in here later] Fire Department.  Everything was provided for us: out-of state permits, shotguns (it was shotgun-only season), food, lodging, transportation to and from the Fire Dept. and Hunt Club out to the hunting plots, the works.

We left as a convoy on Friday afternoon to head down and met up at Gander Mountain where we had an hour or so to wander around.  When we arrived, they gave a stack of $10 gift cards to our Chaplain (who was the leader of the trip) to hand out to us all.  Of course, an hour isn’t long enough for me to make up my mind on what to buy, so I’ve still got mine in my wallet.  LOL.  Before we left, they gave us each a bag that contained a Gander Mountain blaze-orange hat (which met the VA requirement for orange clothing) and some hand warmers.  Then we were called in to the lodge room in the back of the store where the American Legion representative said that the local chapter wanted to gift all of us a one-year membership.  That was just the beginning.  When we left Gander Mountain, we went to the KOA Campgrounds to unload all our stuff into the small three or four-man cabins we were staying in for the night, then headed over to the Hunt Club for a pizza dinner.

The next morning came early (5am) and we headed to the Fire Dept. for breakfast and to meet up with our individual Hunt Club hunting partner/guide and given a safety briefing.  We were also told that this day was a buck or doe day, so we could shoot at anything we saw and that several of the guys would be running dogs through the woods to drive the deer towards us.  The nice women in the kitchen even made me some hot chocolate for my thermos.  We were in the field by 8am.  I was paired up with a nice guy named Keith and his son Hunter.  I was using Hunter’s Browning BPS 12-gauge.  The weather was pretty freaking cold, but my issue gear kept me pretty warm (except for my toes).  Keith and I had a lot of good sidebar conversations about guns and politics and the military and women.  He and I think a lot alike.  I only saw two deer the whole day, and only got a shot off at one (a buck) that was being chased and had already been hit by another hunter in our group.  I’m pretty sure I hit him, but due to the density of the woods and the distance, he just stumbled and headed the other direction.  I wasn’t too disappointed, though.  Even a bad day hunting is better than a good day at work!

That evening we headed back to the Fire Dept. for a feast.  Let me tell you, that is exactly what it was, too!  There was deer meat, chicken of all types of preparation, BBQ, beans, corn, mac & cheese, deviled eggs (my favorite), several types of potatoes, different salads (potato, macaroni, etc…), coleslaw, rolls, cake, pies, cookies… I’m sure I’m leaving something out, but you get the idea.  It literally filled a line of tables from the front to the back of the dining hall.  Dinner was delicious!

Afterwards, there were several presentations.  The WTU (my unit) presented the Hunt Club with a flag that was flown over one of the bases in Afghanistan for a whole month earlier this year.  Then came the presentations to us.  The Fire Chief made each WTU soldier an honorary member of that fire dept.  We were each given a hat and certificate that had our names and the honor written out.  Then he showed us a plaque that he had made that had each of our names engraved on a tab underneath the description on our certificates.  He stated the plaque would hang on the wall forever and that we were always welcome to come back if we ever needed anything.  One of the women that works at the fire dept. is also a substitute teacher for Pre-K through Second Grade at a local elementary school.  She had her students from each of those classes make each of us a Christmas card or ornament or something.  They were all put in bags together and passed out to each of us.  Some of the ones in my bag were so cute and touching.  One of them was written in the cutest little hand-writing and said, “Thank you veteran for helping protect the world”, or something to that extent.  I’ll check again while I’m home this weekend to quote it exactly.  We also had one of five county seat representatives get up and thank us all for what we have done.

I’ve got to tell you, that whole experience was extremely humbling.  The way everyone was speaking and thanking us and shaking our hands really was very touching.  It made me proud of my country and showed me that for all the protesters and outspoken advocates there are, there are still good Americans that support our troops and honestly care about what we do.  Maybe I didn’t go over  to the sandbox with some of my friends, but that doesn’t make my service any less meaningful.  I had several people tell me that in this past week, and I think I believe it.  I’ve felt bad in the past about being injured and not being able to do a lot of stuff that other soldiers do, but it is out of my control.  I think I’ve come to grips with that.  God bless America and its people.

Keep your powder dry.

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