At the GON Outdoor Blast in August, I like many others walked around and signed up for different things that were being given away among the many booths and displays at the Gwinnett Center. That night I got a call from Bill Ward from High Point Quail telling me my name had been drawn for a free continental pheasant hunt at his plantation in Locust Grove. His 12-year-old daughter Reagan (yes, named after Ronald Reagan) had drawn my name out of approximately 500 applications. I won a hunt with a Wounded Warriors group, and they would all be Purple Heart recipients.
After a few minutes of talking to Bill, I hung up the phone and had tears in my eyes, and my wife Terri wanted to know what had happened. I explained it all to her, and she couldn’t understand why I was tearing up. I told her I didn’t deserve this opportunity, I hadn’t earned it. So our conversation went on for awhile, and she kept telling me that there must be some reason for it. That God must have some plan. Then I called my dad to tell him, since he served for 26 years in the Navy. I got all teary eyed again and told him I didn’t deserve it, hadn’t earned it. He too felt like there must be a reason I was drawn.
A couple weeks later, Bill Ward called me, and we discussed the hunt and the Wounded Warrior project. During the call, we both got emotional about these heroes, and I told Bill that I would not hunt but would be there to volunteer, and if there was anything he needed me to bring to just ask.
On Friday Oct. 19, the Wounded Warriors were to meet at the Bass Pro Shops in Macon, and then be escorted to a hotel by the Patriot Guard Riders Motorcycle Group. There had been 42 Purple Heart recipients confirmed—67 showed up. After getting to their hotel, they drove down to the High Point Quail hunting property for an evening of skeet shooting and a dinner provided by Kroger.
I invited KC, one of my co-workers, to go with me. After several conversations with Bill Ward, it looked like some of the Wounded Warriors would need some help at the hunt with the shotguns, shooting, getting around, etc. So KC and I took extra shotguns, 4-wheelers and a Side by Side Polaris. We got down there Friday evening and cooked for the Warriors and helped them out. On Saturday we showed up and helped get them all ready. Bob Paschal, a World War II vet and Purple Heart recipient who helped first begin organizing these events several years ago, kept telling us how much he appreciated us being there helping out.
He then told KC and I the hunting property was not properly represented. There was no flag pole. He and the other Warriors had decided to present Bill Ward with a flag pole along with and American Flag and a POW/MIA Flag outlined in the red and black to signify blood having been spilled on foreign soil as a prisoner of war. When Bob began addressing Bill Ward, he had KC and I bring out the flag pole and flags and he presented them to Bill. He then announced that no shot would be fired at this hunt until the colors had been properly presented. So with post-hole diggers we began digging a proper mounting location. We dug the hole along with help from some other volunteers and placed a piece of PVC pipe in the ground to hold the pole so it can be taken down when there is no hunt or other activity taking place. Once the pole was set, the colors were hoisted into place. Everyone removed their caps, and Mr. Paschal led us all in the Pledge of Allegiance—one of the most moving moments in my life, dozens of Wounded War veterans, many from World War II, standing at attention saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Following that, off we went to our stand locations for the releasing of the pheasants. It was a good thing KC and I brought extra shotguns and everything else. We ended up using all eight shotguns we brought with us. One veteran with a back and leg injury used my 4-wheeler to get around, and KC had a 92-year-old World War II vet that he drove around to his shooting locations. KC told me how he told his veteran about his grandfather who had been a POW in World War II but has since passed away. The vet, Jim, told KC, “That’s okay sonny, I’ll be your grandpa today.”
My veteran that I was teamed up with, Johnny, from Macon, had not shot a gun since the Vietnam War and didn’t have any experience with a shotgun. But he got good real fast and shot a few pheasants with one of my shotguns.
All in all it was a life-changing experience. Yes I got to shoot some and actually shot my first pheasant while backing up Johnny, so I’m having it mounted. When the day was over and we had fed them, cleaned birds and all the veterans had left the grounds, we took down the flag pole until the next hunt. All the vets were great guys who thanked us repeatedly for helping out. Many of them didn’t know that I had actually won the opportunity to hunt with them or that KC had actually paid for his hunt. Bill Ward and his family came up to me and said something to the effect of, “I guess we now know why you were chosen that day. We never could have pulled off this hunt without y’all’s help bringing in all the guns and stuff y’all brought.”
So I guess there was a reason.
Because of our help and us not hunting much, Bill invited KC, myself and a guy named Daniel, who works for Upson County EMC and volunteers at many Wounded Warrior projects, to come back down there to High Point for a quail hunt. So I shot my first quail also and shot a couple more pheasants.
The weekend of the Wounded Warrior Hunt, Bill Ward’s family were there to help including his wife Kerrie, daughters Lindsey and Reagan and son Billy along with Bill’s dad. There were also volunteers from Delta Waterfowl who brought their dogs to retrieve, since many of the warriors couldn’t get around real well, Daniel from Upson County EMC, two brothers who market those camo-clad wheelchairs on tracks (man those things are cool), Brian from a local golf course as well as other friends of Bill’s.
I could go on and on about this event. From a simple drawing at the GON Outdoor Blast, I have met people, begun developing friendships, went on my first pheasant and quail hunt and was able to spend time with some true American heroes. I just wanted to share my luck and my wonderful experience with GON readers.
Editor’s Note: For more on High Point Quail, call (770) 231-7921, or go to www.highpointquail.com.