News: Earth Day turkey shoot lets nature heal war wounds
Story by Leon Roberts
LANCASTER, Tenn. – An Earth Day turkey shoot held here today at Center Hill Lake focused on nature and it helped heal the wounds of war.
Five soldiers recovering at the Warrior Transition Battalion at Fort Campbell, Ky., formed up a “HOAH” party 4 a.m. this morning at the lake’s Resource Manager’s Office. The “HOAH” acronym stands for “Healing Outside Of A Hospital.”
Armed with shotguns, dressed in camouflage and eager to put aside the stresses associated with recovering, the wounded warriors paired up with U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Nashville District rangers and volunteers from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency, and they dispersed into the great outdoors to hunt the wild turkeys native to the area.
Getting these soldiers out for the hunt is sort of like “physical and mental therapy,” said Ranger Chris Cantrell, who helped organize the event. “They’ve done their country a great deed, so if we can let them get a turkey … that’s the least we can do for them.”
The fact that the hunt occurred on Earth Day also did not go unnoticed to these soldiers, Cantrell added. “They were all kind of amazed at the land that we have out here for everybody to use. None of them had ever been to this area before so they really appreciated it and enjoyed it, and are interested in coming back on their own time.”
The group of hunters spent the first several hours of the day hunting before heavy rains poured down on them. They returned for a deep fried turkey nugget lunch with all the fixings before returning to the woods for the afternoon under clear skies.
Tony Cross, a wildlife officer with the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency in DeKalb County, Tennessee, spoke during the break and said he considered it an honor and a privilege to be able to participate with these heroes.
“I’m just really thankful for all of our service men and women, and especially these guys,” Cross said. “It was a real thrill to go. I went with Perry Thornton. He was my hunting partner today. We weren’t fortunate today to get a bird, but I had a great time.”
Cross added that “the bird with the pea brain outsmarted us. He came in about 80 yards and probably gobbled 75 times back and forth in the field, but he just wouldn’t come in quite close enough for a shot.”
Staff Sgt. Stanley Bell, a wounded warrior now assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion, did not let the bird outsmart him. He kept the turkey in his sights and was able to bring back a turkey from his hunt.
“It’s the first bird I’ve ever seen with double spurs,” Bell said. “There are a lot of birds up here to hunt, so it turned out good. I’m real happy with it. It’s an awesome event for us to be able to come out here and take a little break from the usual grind.”
Bell said he thinks building a relationship with the Corps with these types of activities is natural given the large amounts of lands the Corps of Engineers manages in Middle Tennessee and Kentucky.
Spc. Matthew Kasper is another wounded warrior who brought back his first-ever turkey during the hunt. “One shot – one kill,” he noted. “It’s not every day a warrior can do this. I highly suggest other warriors get out and take the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, hunt with some excellent people, and have a good time.”
The wounded warriors posed for pictures after lunch, and Bell said that it’s nice to get away from post and the everyday stuff they experience when recovering from combat wounds and injuries. “This was a real good time,” he said.
Jeff Hancock, interim resource manager at Center Hill Lake, said the excitement and enjoyment is what the “HOOAH” Program is all about.
“The healing from just being outdoors and getting out and communing with everyone else, and working out everything in their own mind … you can see that, the stress relief as they are out there,” Hancock said. “It’s not about taking a turkey or whether they get one or not. It’s just about being out there more than anything.”
Hancock said being outdoors on Earth Day helped them clear their minds, and to empty their cups sort of speak. “They’ve got a lot of things going on in their life dealing with family and of course their injuries. A lot of them have surgeries coming up. Some of them have battles with what is going on inside, and it helps them clear it out. Plus they get to talk to us and get it off their shoulders.”
Other wounded warriors that participated were Sgt. Joshua Medlin, Sgt. 1st Class Perry Thorington and Staff Sgt. David Jacks.
Hancock thanked his entire staff for their efforts in sponsoring the turkey hunt, and was also appreciative of Cross and Mike Beaty, the two TWRA officers that participated and donated their time and efforts to support the soldiers.
In addition, Hancock noted that the following sponsors also supported the soldiers to help welcome them home and to help them in a small way as they recover:
Final Roast Calls – donated diaphragm calls; Cane Creek Calls – donated diaphragm calls; Drury Outdoors – donated a DVD and hats; Trophy Ridge – donated Broadheads; Quaker Boy Calls – donated calls.
As necessary, news and information on the current rain event will be made available on the district’s website at www.lrn.usace.army.mil, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/nashvillecorps, and on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nashvillecorps.