Then. Now. Always.
It wasn’t only the theme of this year’s convention; it’s how we view the viability of the NWTF.
We have a strong past, which has proven our organization has what it takes to facilitate success, as evident in the comeback of the wild turkey.
We have a promising future with the Save the Habitat. Save the Hunt initiative.
And now is the time to make sure both have a place in history.
It’s what we do now as an organization that pays tribute to the path paved by those before us. Now is when we lay the bricks for the road ahead of us.
Those bricks aren’t made with good intentions. There’s got to be money in the mix. Money to fund our mission today and tomorrow.
That’s why the Grand National Auction is so important. Just like the thousands of auctions, raffles and fundraisers NWTF volunteers hold throughout the country each year, the Grand National — “the big daddy of ‘em all” — helps foot the bill to carry out our mission and programs. It puts money where are hearts are.
Hunts, a Chevy truck, a triple-barrel shotgun and even an entertainment center from Elvis Presley’s bedroom were up for bid. And the backdrop for the evening was celebrating 40 rockin’ years of the NWTF, complete with celebrity impersonators walking around the room.
For me, the highlight was having my photo taken with “Gene Simmons” of KISS, then using “Madonna” to help sell raffle tickets for a Kentucky elk hunt. Tell me that’s not funny…
When is the best time to tell a veteran thank you for his or her service? Now … and anytime you see one.
Their sacrifices helped pave the path that allows us to enjoy hunting, because we live in a country protected by the finest military in the world.
We began the Winchester Veteran’s Breakfast with a photo diary/video of the Outdoor Legends Tours, where members of the hunting community traveled overseas to personally thank active duty military. Many of you may have read accounts from the tour’s frontlines from NWTF CEO George Thornton and NWTF Spokesperson Brenda Valentine on this blog. If you missed it, click on their names for a link to each of their adventures and get caught up. Both offer glimpses into the everyday life of our servicemen and women.
It’s a given that I cry during this breakfast every year. And I shed a few tears listening to NWTF District Field Supervisor Dave Mahlke talk about his son’s enlistment in the Army, how he was injured in the line of duty and made an incredible recovery, as well as how hunting and family played a role in it.
As parent, I can’t fathom watching my son go through so much pain. Dang it, I’m crying just thinking about it. God bless the Mahlke family and all military families.
And if I wasn’t already a hot mess, the super-duper talented brass player Mic Gillette played the haunting notes of “Taps,” as we remembered the fallen, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf.
The annual breakfast is always so moving to me, not by just watching what’s happening on stage, but thinking about the individual stories of the folks in the crowd.
I looked up from my production book to see a fella, probably not five years younger than me, walk with a slight limp to receive his commemorative veterans pin (an annual tradition at the breakfast). What was going through his head at that moment? Pride? Heartache? Both?
I can’t begin to understand. All I can do is offer my sincere gratitude and respect.
Thank you to Winchester and the NWTF for giving me a venue to do just that.