Disabled veterans are again getting the opportunity to participate in an annual waterfowl hunt.
For several years in a row, the Idaho Division of Veteran Services partnered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game’s Magic Valley Region. The opportunity happens in Hagerman, Idaho.
Waterfowl Hunting Experience
The result has been an experience outside that otherwise the veterans would have a harder time being able to accomplish.
One of the people behind the project is Mark Fleming. He is the Fish and Game Habitat Manager. He is also a Gulf War veteran.
“As a combat veteran it feels great to provide an enjoyable experience for our disabled veterans,” Fleming said according to MagicValley.com.
The program essentially consists of mentored hunts. This means activities like duck hunting. The mentor will sit and give advice with them while in the duck blind.
The experience helps to unify disabled veterans from the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Together, they share a lighthearted, lightly competitive experience out in nature.
It’s a good way of jokingly discussing which branch has the best shot.
National Park Service Opportunities
The mentored hunting for disabled veterans in Idaho is an excellent way for veterans to be able to experience what the outdoors has to offer.
For many veterans, especially those who are disabled, it may be harder to have fulfilling experiences outside.
There are several organizations and places that offer experiences for veterans specifically. One example is the National Park Service.
While NPS already has a good name for preserving some of the world’s most beautiful and natural areas, it also has done a lot of work in increasing accessibility. NPS also offers free annual passes for active-duty military members.
However, there is also a disability pass that is totally free. In addition, it comes with 50% off certain amenities and activities.
No Barriers USA and Veterans
Additionally, another opportunity available is through a non-profit called No Barriers USA. They have a specific program called No Barriers Warriors. Despite the pandemic, the organization still has COVID-19 friendly ways of helping this community.
“Our free veterans’ at-home programs, virtual communities and in-person expeditions and outdoor programs serve as both an opportunity for growth and a catalyst for change as these brave men and women stretch physical and emotional boundaries, foster camaraderie, pioneer through adversity, and step up to serve others,” according to the website.
The online process is led with an at-home one-month expedition kit. However, they also have a number of in-person journeys.
With veterans, they have trekked through iconic mountains in Ecuador or the Colorado Rockies, went skiing through the South Pole, rock climbing in the Shawangunk Mountains, rafting and sleeping in the Grand Canyon, as well as many other adventures.
The best part? It is all free for veterans.
One testimony comes from Gretchen Evans. She served in Afghanistan where she survived a deadly blast from a rocket. However, she lost all hearing, suffered a traumatic brain injury, and had other internal injuries.
“The healing environment provided by No Barriers was life-changing. Before, during, and after my expedition, No Barriers provided me and my group with avenues to replace hopelessness—not only with hope, but with a renewed passion for living life to the fullest!” Evans said.
OATH, Inc and Veterans
OATH, Inc, or Outdoor Association for True Heroes, Incorporated, is all about creating unity through outdoor experiences.
This non-profit has the goal of letting veterans just sit back and enjoy the outdoors. Further, the goal is to help create unity amongst all kinds of veterans.
One testimonial was from Amanda Philips. She found what she called her “Band of Sisters.”
“The comradery, beach, deep sea fishing trip, talks, laughter, tears of understanding and tears of joy are just a little bit of our weekend. I walked into a house full of strangers and walked out with a new family. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions but I have a newly found comfort in knowing that I am apart of #OATHWarriorWives,” Philips said.
From duck hunting to trekking through the mountains to just taking it all in, many groups are helping all kinds of veterans find renewed purpose and community through outdoor experiences.