Do you want to honor a Veteran? Take one hunting or fishing!
Many of the skills they already possess make them canny students of field-craft, and invaluable assets as we work against declining numbers of outdoorsmen and women. They’re commonly trained and have experience in firearms safety, camouflage, movement through challenging terrain, land navigation, and first aid. There are many skills drilled into our warriors that lay the foundations for success in the outdoors. They are a resource that the outdoor community cannot afford to squander.
Seeing the change that comes over a warfighter during a hunting trip can be truly astounding to behold. Daily worries and closely held memories slip away as the hunt unfolds. Moving stealthily through the darkness to a stand is familiar and comfortable to those who once owned the night. The instincts that served him well, packed away with their mementos, rekindle again.
Settling in for a day on the hunt in that silent moment before dawn, you’ll visibly see the warrior relax as he takes the watch. As the sun rises and the earth warms, his senses are enveloped in the serene soundtrack of nature. This is something he knows very well.
When the waiting and work finally pay off, and the game animal appears, the world shrinks, time freezes, and everything snaps into absolute focus. There is no space left for the uncertainty of the future or the memories of the past.
What proper description is there for that microcosm of victory, as you approach the downed animal, the fulfillment of all the expectations of the hunt before you. The awe, excitement, and humility as the rush subsides, and the quiet weight of the forest descends once more. There is only that moment, and in that moment, there is peace. For those who have borne so much, these moments have a very special meaning.
If you’re seeking a way to honor veterans beyond social media posts, platitudes, or parades, invite one along on your next outdoor adventure. Get involved with the many veteran non-profits focused on providing these experiences, one being The Foundation for Exceptional Warriors, which I have a particular fondness for. Share your passion with them. Make a real difference. Enjoy the chance to hear their stories, and to make some new ones.
I do not make this next point lightly: Your friendship may very well be the difference between suicide and survival for a veteran struggling to find his or her place. By investing your time, reaching out, and hearing their stories, we do them the greatest honor.