Aug 10, 2012, 1:00 AM EDT
By Bill Miller
With some time to absorb all we saw and heard on the AFE/PVA Outdoor Legends Tour, I know this opportunity was one of the most meaningful things I’ve done in my life … and will ever have the chance to do. We were invited to give a little bit of fun and home to the troops. From the smiles, handshakes, and even hugs I know we were successful. I don’t want to appear selfish, but it turns out we received so much more than we could possibly have ever given.
For me it was a greater appreciation of what fantastic people we have in the service of the United States. These are smart, hardworking, thoughtful, polite, respectful, friendly, courageous, sacrificing people who give up immeasurable security and “life” to serve our country. I truly sleep better having met firsthand the people protecting our freedoms. And a day will never go by the rest of my life when I don’t feel a little guilty about enjoying what we have here back at home knowing what they must endure over there to protect it.
That should lead us all to seek ways to thank these men and women for their service. In the outdoor world, we need to do all we can to welcome veterans and their families into the woods and onto the waters. Thankfully, there’s a whole range of ways to make it happen.
The simplest is as easy as an invitation. If you own or lease land for hunting, invite a local returning vet and his/her kids to come on out. It doesn’t matter if it’s just to shoot a few squirrels or manage does. They just need a place to hunt, rejuvenate, and get reacquainted in the good ol’ outdoors.
Dozens of organizations like the PVA Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund exist where you can make direct contributions of time and/or money. Many focus on wounded warriors, but more are now offering opportunities to all returning veterans and their families. Creating opportunities for time outdoors to help veterans reintegrate into their families is vital. Lew Deal is also working with a group called Hope for the Warriors that makes whole family opportunities its focus.
You can support Hope for the Warriors Outdoors Adventure Program through membership in the National Wild Turkey Federation. And starting this fall, a portion of the sales of Mossy Oak THUG (Today’s Hunters United for Good) gear sold at Wal-Mart stores will be donated to the PVA Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund.
Then there’s the simplest and easiest of all thanks of all. When you’re at the airport or the local coffee shop and see someone in uniform, just step forward, shake his/her hand and say “Thank you for your service.” Maybe even pick up their check if you can.
Much as I can, I’m going to try to make these things a part of the way I live my own life going forward.
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