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By Gordon Melton/President of Hunting with Soldiers—
PADUCAH – Twenty-twenty has been a rough year for Hunting with Soldiers, as it has been for many people.
Most of our largest fundraising events were canceled due to COVID-19, thus cutting our funding in half. We were also forced to cancel a couple of trips planned for our Combat Veterans due to everything being shut down.
The Hunting with Soldiers mission is to get the veterans into the outdoors to provide them with healing from their PTSD. We provide hunting and fishing adventures for them, most often with other veterans who have been in similar situations, so that they can come together, visit, enjoy, relax and know that they are not alone in their fight against the demons we call PTSD.
We provide these trips for veterans of all wars. We do this at no cost to the veterans. We also are proud to do this with no paid staff. Everything we raise goes to what we do for the veterans. Since our funding was severely decreased, we reached out to our supporters and our followers, and many came through.
We received a wonderful grant from the San Angelo chapter of the SCI and then another sizeable donation from Robert Ownby of SETX Upfitters. We had a great trap shoot at El Paso Skeet & Trap Club. Then the CHIVE Texas Chapter even hosted an event to help fund our organization.
We have also been blessed for the 3rd year in a row to be represented by Andy Janovich, #31 of the Cleveland Browns (formally #32 of the Denver Broncos), in the NFL My Cause My Cleats Campaign. He is wearing cleats for several NFL games with logos representing Hunting with Soldiers.
After a few games, these cleats go up for auction. Hunting with Soldiers receives the funds from the auction of the cleats. Although our funding was severely decreased, Hunting with Soldiers was able to get 80 veterans into the outdoors.
We have gotten these veterans out fishing for hybrid and black bass, crappie and catfish. We have gotten these veterans out on dove hunts, quail hunts, turkey hunts, whitetail deer and mule deer hunts, exotics and hogs. We have gone all over Texas getting these men and women into the outdoors.
We have gone to Water Valley, Killeen, San Saba, Olney, Galloway, Comstock, Henrietta, Columbus, Batesville, Llano, Oletha, Eagle Lake, Burkeville, Quanah and Paducah. We have been with these Veterans and witnessed many hunting for the very first time. We have been able to teach them how to clean and quarter their harvest, giving them a skill to use later to help feed their families.
We have heard stories of horror, heroism, honor and love. You will not see these stories on a television program or on YouTube. We do not film our hunts or fishing trips. A person is a lot less likely to open up and release their demons if they know the whole world will see it. We do this for the healing, not the publicity.
Although we post our sponsors on our website and advertise them on our Facebook, this still knocks us out of a lot of sponsorship and donations because we do not show the world when these veterans open up. We do not use them as our poster children.
We are in this to save lives. The veterans we seek to help are what we call the, “I need this to save my life” veterans, not the, “look at me and what I did” veterans. We would rather work twice as hard to get sponsorship and donations, rather than take the chance and lose another veteran to the 22-a-day statistic because we were too busy trying to use these veterans horror stories to show the world what we do.
We post pictures and short clips on our website and Facebook, as well as our Instagram but never of the veterans opening up. We have personally witnessed many of these veterans healing. We have received feedback from not only them but their families as well.
Although these veterans never pay for any of their hunting or fishing adventures, when they leave, they owe a debt. The debt they owe is to live until God takes them when He is ready for them. That is a debt we hope and pray is paid in full by each one of our veterans.
Many have heard the saying “I’ve Got Your 6.” This means, “I’ve got your back.” Hunting with Soldiers lets these men and women know that not only do we have their 6, but we also have their three and nine. We will be standing beside them in their fight against PTSD. Fighting that fight with them.
PTSD is a war waged upon them by their demons. No war has been won by one person. It takes many. We encourage each one of them and all reading this to reach out. If you are interested in helping Hunting with Soldiers with our mission, either by providing land for the veterans to hunt on, providing a fishing trip or even monetary or product donations, please email us at [email protected]
All donations are tax deductible since we are a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Charitable Organization. All veterans sign a waiver of liability form prior to each hunting and fishing adventure. We encourage all to view our website at www.huntingwithsoldiers.org where you can not only see what our organization is about, but you can also donate there and see the many ways in which you can help. If you have Facebook, please join our Facebook Group at www.facebook.com/groups/huntingwithsoldiers. You do not have to be a veteran to join as long as you support veterans.