I photographed the inaugural Wounded Veteran Dove Hunt in Monetta, S.C., last weekend. It was just a quick jaunt up the road from my house, and we needed more photos to help promote the NWTF Wheelin’ Sportsmen program.
The daylong sporting clays and dove shoot was sure to present a ton of shots (pun intended) of people with disabilities enjoying the outdoors.
I’m always a little nervous before a Wheelin’ Sportsmen event. Even though I’ve been to more than a dozen over the years, I still feel … I don’t know … self-conscious.
I know I sound absurd, but I bet many of you would feel the same way.
What if I say something stupid like, “Let me give you a hand,” to someone without hands? Or complain out loud about my shoes hurting my feet in front of someone who uses a wheelchair?
Then I think, “Get over yourself, Karen.”
The participants at these events live with his or her differences EVERY DAY. I’m one person at one event that lasts one day in a lifetime of challenges. Why should I be so egotistical to think that one slip of the tongue would even be a blip on their radars?
It took about 10 minutes for me to go from self-absorbed to one of the gang, and I have to thank a woman named Crystal for that.
As she approached the shooting station for a practice round of sporting clays before taking to the dove field, I asked for permission to take her picture.
“Want me to roll my pant’s leg up to show my prosthesis?” she asked. She knew why I was there and was stepping up to help.
“No, no, that’s fine,” I mentally sputtered. I’m focusing on your eyes anyway.”
She cut me at the knees and didn’t even know it. It was then I realized I was there to photograph people, not their disabilities.
Over the next few hours, I listened to several participants’ stories, and some of them offered details on how they were injured, some of them in combat. Mostly, we just talked about “stuff.” Families. Work. What we do in our spare time.
My camera — and outlook — changed focus.
Wheelin’ Sportsmen events don’t revolve around parts of people. It’s for the whole person — missing hands, paralyzed muscles, hearts, smiles, spirits and all.
Have I convinced you to get involved in the NWTF’s Wheelin’ Sportsmen program? Contact Randy Green at firstname.lastname@example.org.