It’s hard to express the gratitude we feel to those who put their lives on the line daily to fight for our freedom. It seems as though a gift, no matter the size, could ever be enough to properly show them the proper thanks. But a local business and a handful of gracious men came together three years ago and formed an idea of how they could give back to the dedicated men and women who serve our country. And it has worked like a charm.
In what he describes as “one of those things you come up with in the middle of the night,” Army retiree Ed Turner came up with the idea of hosting a wild hog hunting trip for wounded warriors. He immediately contacted his friend and fellow retired service member (Air Force Captain) Blaine Burley, who owns Woods-N-Water, Inc., and the two put a lot of thought into making these trips happen. It doesn’t take long to gain supporters when someone finds out a project is for a great cause.
Several of Ed and Blaine’s friends learned of their plans and wanted to be a part of it, in any way they possibly could. So, for three years now, William Allen (retired Army), Rodney Allen (active-duty Navy Pilot), Mark Jackson (Woods-N-Water Guide) and Don Mutsch, who makes the annual trip all the way from Wisconsin each year, combine their resources and host an annual hunting trip for a wounded serviceman. This year, the group hosted 22-year-old Lance Corporal (E-3) Alex Juedes, a wounded Infantry Rifleman for the Marines. He joined the Marines after graduating from high school in Powder Springs in 2011 and became a member of the 1st Battalion, 9th Marines out of Camp LeJeunne, N.C.
Alex was serving in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he was seriously injured. On Jan. 25, 2014, Alex was part of a Quick Reaction Force team assigned to assist another platoon that was being fired upon. He was on top of a truck when a Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) hit the machine gun he was behind. The explosion blew off his thumb, index and middle fingers, most of the inside of his arm, and severed the femur artery in his right leg.
Alex said he remembers falling inside the truck into the lap of his Corpsman, a Naval medic nicknamed ‘Doc,’ who immediately started working on him. He was driven back to the patrol base 2 miles away and flown back to Camp Leatherneck on a British helicopter. He was taken from there to Bagram, Afghanistan and then to Landstuhl, Germany before being taken to Walter Reed in Washington D.C. on Jan. 31, where he is currently stationed. He recently celebrated his one-year ‘anniversary’ of the accident on Jan. 25, which he calls his ‘live day,’ a term used for the day someone gets severely wounded.
Alex, a native of Marietta, said his parents, Karen Dunlap and Gregory Juedes, have been a great support. His dad, who is a 16-year retired Marine, has served as his non-medical attendant (NMA) during his stay at Walter Reed.
Alex was the recipient of several military decorations, including a Purple Heart, a Combat Action Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, Afghanistan Campaign Ribbon, Global War on Terror Ribbon, Sea Service Deployment Ribbon and an ISAF NATO Ribbon.
After learning of Alex’s story, Ed coordinated the trip, Blaine donated the hunt, and with the help of Don, William, Rodney, Mark and other individual donations, the date for the trip was set. Ed commended Operation Second Chance for helping locate Alex for them as well as providing the airplane tickets for his trip.
“They’ve always been really good to us,” said Ed.
Alex said he arrived in Johnson County on Feb. 13 under the impression that he would be using someone else’s gun for the hunt, as he didn’t have one of his own. He said he was shocked when these gentlemen presented him a rifle equipped with an optic scope for him to call his own, even after the trip.
“I was overwhelmed,” said Alex. “I didn’t expect all this.”
Alex said he didn’t start hunting until 2014 and had never been hunting for wild hogs. So not only did he get to experience wild hog hunting for the first time, he bagged a huge 300-pounder!
He had to leave Johnson County on Wednesday to head back to Marietta, before making his way back to Walter Reed on Sunday, but because of the generosity of these men, Alex took many great memories back with him, as well as a belly full of barbecued wild hog.
Blaine said Alex was an extraordinary young man and a true American Hero.
“I am truly blessed to be able to give back a little something to such a well-deserved young man like Alex, who has given so many sacrifices for our Country,” said Blaine. “It is sacrifices like this that allow us to enjoy our many freedoms as Americans. “
Alex was also treated to another surprise, an early birthday cake (he turned 22 on Feb. 19), which was baked by Joy Lord, who refused to accept any money after learning who it was for.
“This trip has been a real honor,” said Alex. “It’s been such a big privilege to come out and hunt with these guys.”
“Actually, it’s our privilege,” Don interjected. “To be able to do this for a true American hero.”
The memories made during the six-day hunt gave so much back to Alex, not only several lifelong friendships with his hosts, but the understanding that there are people who understand what wounded warriors are going through, and who appreciate every second of the service they provide.
Go Hog Hunting At Woods-N-Water
GON has partnered with Woods-N-Water for a number of years on several different things. We are currently enjoying their sponsorship of our GON Youth Big-Buck Contest where we send one kid on a deer and hog hunt with them each fall.
To book a deer, hog or turkey hunting trip with Woods-N-Water, call Blaine at (888) MAX-GAME. Check him out on his website at www.woodsnwaterinc.com.