THE FORT BENNING STORY
HOPE, RENEWAL, EMPOWERMENT:
HUNTING and WOUNDED WARRIORS By Tom Fegely Photos by the Author
he nation’s news media continues to provide gut-wrenching details of warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and other battle zones across the world, with almost each day carrying word of American troops who gave their all in tragic encounters with enemy forces. Some injured survivors return home to recuperate with family and friends. Others seek residence in veterans’ hospitals, where their lives take on new challenges, scarred forever by burns, gunshot wounds, blast injuries, traumatic amputations and other battle-related disabilities. Some recuperated vets might eventually return to the battlefields after healing or spend their days in military service. Despite the tragedies thousands of injured soldiers have endured, there comes the hope of spiritual renewal and empowerment made possible by modern wonders of high-tech surgery and medical rehabilitation. The good news is that military hospitals across the country report success stories spawned by activitybased restorative programs, many via the Wounded Warriors Project, WWP founded five years ago, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America, PVA formed in 1946, with 34 chapters nationwide.
Guide Bill Brickner, left, and hunter Bobby Terry ready for a day afield on the newly acquired battery-operated Bad Boy Buggy donated by Just Duke It Contracting.
A CHANCE TO HUNT AGAIN One of the diversions offering hope and welcome distraction for disabled servicemen is a broad-based recreational program in military hospitals ranging from billiards, hiking, camping, cycling, fishing, wheel-chair
Volunteer guides CPT Kyle Burns, left, and SSG Brandon Moak,who are war vets, stand next to the portable $20,000 electric lift that lets disabled hunters get a boost for seeking deer, turkeys and hogs. It was donated by the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
WHITETAIL NEWS / Vol. 19, No. 1
basketball and other activities — including hunting. A facility well known for its appeal to disabled veterans wishing to hunt is 182,000-acre Fort Benning, a U.S. Army post and hospital near Columbus, Ga., established in 1918. The property straddles the Chattahoochee River, and includes about 12,000 acres of Alabama landscape, giving healing hunters new hope of calling in sharp-eyed gobblers, setting their cross-hairs on wary bucks or taking aim at the post’s destructive feral hogs HELP FROM WARRIORS AND VETS At the helm of Fort Benning’s hunting program are WWP and PVA volunteers such as Bill Brickner, 66, a master sergeant and recipient of three Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. He was drafted in 1964 and retired in 1992. Just before retiring, he organized the post’s initial hunting outings after 29 years of service in Korea, Desert Storm and other Middle East conflicts. Disabled men who hunted before their service days became and continue to be his focus. During Brickner’s lengthy recuperation, he also fulfilled his wish of being able to deer hunt with his dad as he did in western www.whitetailinstitute.com
volume 19 issue 1