Military Veterans Bond Over Hunting Expedition in Snowy Winterscape

by Michael Freeman

Veterans in our military often leave their branch of choice with mental wounds, as well as physical ones. Many organizations exist for the sole purpose of helping them adjust and acclimate to civilian life. Some will persist in that regard, no matter what challenges they face. On that front, snow couldn’t stop a group of military veterans from bonding over a hunting expedition.

The Meadville Tribune reported the event occurred Saturday. Despite cold temperatures and a good amount of snow, 20 military veterans set out to hunt pheasants. Dubbed the Hartstown Veterans Hunt, organizers called the endeavor a success. The event aims to bring veterans in northwestern Pennsylvania and surrounding areas together for a free pheasant hunt.

This was the second occurrence, with the first held in 2019. Though initially slated to be an annual event, the COVID pandemic delayed subsequent hunts. Kory Slye devised the idea years ago because of his brother-in-law, Kevin Zaffino, who happens to be both a veteran and hunting enthusiast. Zaffino lamented missing seasons because he was serving our country, prompting Slye to organize the event for people like him.

“I’ve seen (my wife’s) brother start the whole process of going through (Officer Candidate School), all the training, missing Christmases, birthdays and hunting seasons,” Slye said. “I can’t imagine missing all that time with my family.”

Slye saw his chance to help when he discovered Freedom Hunters, a group that arranges hunting opportunities for veterans. After a few phone calls, the wheels were in motion and the first hunt was a success. But more than just a hunt, Zaffino reports loving the company and stories that come with it. “I think that’s the biggest takeaway today,” he said. “Getting the veterans together to talk about their experiences.”

Veterans Also Recently Bonded Over a Sturgeon Fishing Expedition

Hunting isn’t the only way veterans provided moral support for one another lately. Another group came together for a sturgeon-spearing expedition.

According to Spectrum News 1, 20 veterans came together to spear sturgeon together, though the real goal was to bond and heal with one another. Veteran support group House in the Woods organized the event. Though they naturally want participants to catch fish, the primary allure is the experience and the stories they all tell. Paul House serves as executive director of the organization and created it after his son died in Iraq.

“They loosen up, and they start sharing more of their stories,” House shared. “When you see that, and you see the healing process; it’s very inspirational for me, and all our volunteers. You’ll ask most of the guys, and they won’t care. If they spear one great. If they don’t, it’s not the end of the world.”

Taking place on Lake Winnebago a little over a week ago, the event was a huge success.