Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Wrap up

The more you give, the more you get.

It’s a truism that has proven itself over and again.

The Armed Forces Entertainment experiment, dubbed the “Outdoor Legends Tour,” was no exception. Each of us who participated was thanked repeatedly at every stop along the tour. From hospital beds to armored vehicles, the occupants expressed the same gratitude when hearing how the hunting community was full of appreciation and support for their sacrifices.

Little did these service members realize was how honored we were to bring that message and how humbled we felt to be in their presence. Spending time in their world gave us a greater understanding of the Armed Forces programs and its missions.

Another less expected gift I received from the tour was the insight into the lives of my team partners. None of our group will ever know how or why we were selected for this project. Personally, I think it was about balance.

There was a man from the upper Midwest with a zeal for good dogs, fine guns and all things feathered; an adventuresome Canadian with a craze for continent hopping with a muzzleloader over his shoulder; and a woman from the South with a passion for shooting white-tailed deer and wild turkey with anything bearing a scope or peep sight.

Yet each of us is outspoken about hunting and patriotism. I can truthfully say despite our strong personalities and the added stress of extreme heat, sleep loss and tight schedules, we never exchanged a cross word or displayed a sour mood. In fact, as the tour progressed, we bonded and found greater appreciation of the others’ strengths. It didn’t take long for us to function as a team.

As I said in the beginning of this diary, no matter your personal views on war or the military involvement in Asia, the men and women who risk their lives there daily are our sons, brothers, sisters, mothers, neighbors and friends. We must support our own and continue to thank them for protecting our freedoms while praying for their safety until each one returns home.

This experience was life changing in many ways, but the change it brought about to me, as a hunter, was a sense of renewed pride. One of the most poignant statements I heard in Afghanistan that continues to reverberate in my head was, “The anti-hunters sure haven’t sent anybody over here to see us and make us feel appreciated.”

These words alone should make every hunter stand a little taller when they see an American flag. I know I do.

— Brenda

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 9 (part 2)

As the fun afternoon wore on, a distant sand storm began to cloud the setting sun, which made for an amazingly beautiful sky and dangerous flying conditions. No matter to us, we saw it as an unexpected, but welcome opportunity. We had such a fun afternoon on the range, and our group bonded almost instantly with many of the servicemen and women.

Members of the camp were eager to display one of the flags I’d been carrying on this incredible journey.

With the sand storm delaying our pickup flight we were given bonus time with this Special Forces unit.

The handlers were disciplined in the correct manner of folding and carrying our flag. The flag ceremonies all ended the same way: I was presented with a perfectly folded flag, which meant there was no red showing.

Every American should feel patriotic pride whenever he or she sees the Stars and Stripes, knowing there have been hundreds of thousands throughout history who have given their lives to defend that flag and our freedom.

Old Glory was always shown honor, respect and reverence each time it was displayed.

As I mentioned before, my luggage was lost on the flight from Germany. The few things I did have in my backpack were perhaps a bit atypical — my passport, Kindle, American flags, lip balm, a Mossy Oak cap with the NWTF logo, a light jacket and one of my Sweet Talk turkey calls.

My motto: Might as well make the best of every situation.

Thanks to the sandstorm, we had time to spare in camp. I figured some of the group would enjoy a little turkey calling. Most of them were turkey hunters, but as with any group of hunters, their skill and experience levels ranged widely. They were quick to critic each others calling or sometimes just scowl if the notes were off key.

This bunch of Southern boys enjoyed a little Sweet Talk turkey calling.

I finally parted with the Sweet Talk call in this camp and left it for them to practice on until they are able to come home and actually use their calling skills in the turkey woods.

— Brenda

 

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 8

One unit made a road sign from a target (notice the holes) with directions to each of our hometowns. And check out the caps we’re wearing. These were personalized gifts from a Special Forces unit. Mine will go in my collection curio of treasures.

It is hard to say enough about the hospitality and the warm reception each of the Afghanistan camps offered.

While visiting one camp that had seen its fair share of action, a young guard noticed my turquoise cross necklace and said, “I see you are a Christian. Please take this gift.” It was a rosary made of beautiful black beads. I reasoned with him that considering his present situation he might need it more than me, but he would not hear of it. A special gift I shall always treasure.

Lt. Col. (ret) Lew Deal from Armed Forces Entertainment and Hope For The Warriors had the forethought to get a zillion of these photos printed before the trip. I can’t begin to estimate how many we signed, but often it was hurriedly done in unusual circumstances. This photo was taken inside a Blackhawk helicopter. I signed it using the top of my helmet for a desk. The pilot, co-pilot and gunners were hunters but couldn’t get off duty to attend the official meet and greet.

From generals to snipers, doctors to pilots, even septic truck drivers, we were given an opportunity to spend time with each department and learn about their specific part in Operation Enduring Freedom.

It also was nice to learn more of the humanitarian projects going on in Afghanistan. I must not have been watching the news when they explained about the schools we have started for Afghan children and how much of the focus is on helping young girls get an education. I didn’t know childbirth was the No. 1 killer of women there and that we have established birthing clinics staffed with female doctors to assist the women.

I also didn’t know that in some camps as many as 18 allied countries are working and fighting side by side to help the Afghan people gain their independence. It was also news to me that we are teaching them to govern and sustain themselves as they gradually gain control of their homeland.

— Brenda

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 7

The Army, Marines and hunters unite!

Having never served in the military, camp life was way different than what I thought it might be … in a good way. It occurred to me early one morning, as I followed my nose to the nearest coffee pot, how courteous everyone was. Not only to me but also to each other, no matter if they were military, civilian contractors or local workers.

Early-morning joggers exchanged warm greetings. Food servers smiled sincerely. People of every rank and station exchanged pleasantries. It wasn’t just the greetings that caught my attention, but the manners and respect that often lacks in our society — small gestures such as holding doors open and addressing others as sir or ma’am.

I can truthfully say that I witnessed not a single act of rudeness during the entire tour.

 

I was especially pleased when I received permission to display the American flags I brought from home. An AMVETS post from my home state of Tennessee entrusted me to bring their flags and messages of encouragement and brotherhood to this war-torn country. There is no telling where these flags might surface some day for a good cause.

We just thought we’d been busy up to this point, but the storm was about to be unleashed.

Our group had adjusted well to the mounting air miles and 12-hour time difference. We were anxious to shake hands and exchange hunting stories with the troops.

The first camp we visited had a fine lunch followed by a lengthy meet and greet in the dining area, or DFAC as they referred to it. They presented each of us with a certificate of appreciation from the chief of staff, gave us a tour of the compound and briefed us on the state of affairs.

These folks were the epitome of hospitality. Many hailed from Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Tennessee, so I felt right at home. I wished we could have stayed longer, but our chariot was waiting and so was another camp full of service men and women who were anxious to talk hunting.

— Brenda

 

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 5

Everyone at Camp Manas was packing and dragging firepower, except us hunters. We felt pretty under-dressed for the occasion.

Welcome to Camp Manas near Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!

Thousands of troops pass through here each month. We arrived a little before dawn. After a short briefing, we settled into our bunks. Since I had only the clothes I was wearing, there wasn’t much unpacking to do.

Thank goodness my toothbrush, passport, American flags and cell phone were in my backpack. I figured I could simply borrow Jim Shockey’s hairdryer and Bill Miller’s lip-gloss.

Soon we were issued protective gear. The vest had thick bulletproof plates surrounding our vitals and felt as if they weighed a ton. No kidding. The vest alone was like wearing two concrete blocks over my shoulders (and I am a very strong woman). I can’t imagine how some of the small-frame girls handle this piece of gear all day in the triple-digit heat. My helmet is certainly off to them.

Now I feel a bit overdressed…

That evening we had a formal meet and greet with the troops at Pete’s Place, the main gathering point at camp. We met servicemen from everywhere, but a group of former Florida cowboys from the Red Horse Unit and some guys from Guam hung with us till quitting time.  I met a couple of young female enlistees from the St. Louis area who wanted to get into turkey hunting.

The common thread we shared was a love of country and hunting.

— Brenda

 

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 3

The first official stop of the Outdoor Legends Tour was the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Our first official stop was the USO Warrior Center at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Sick or injured military personnel are first transported to this hospital for treatment or therapy before coming to the States or being deployed wherever duty calls, whatever the situation may be.

The Warrior Center was clean and a place of support. There seemed to be a swarm of activities for the patients. The food was fresh, tasty and plentiful. Moral was high. And many of the staff are hunters.

This recuperating serviceman couldn’t get enough turkey talk, so I left copies of Turkey Country for the center’s library, as well as DVD copies of the Bass Pro TV show.

I just happened to have some copies of Turkey Country to add to their library and gave a few turkey calling lessons using a drinking straw. We spent much of the day signing pictures and spending time with rehabilitating servicemen.

We were then taken on a tour of the hospital and had an opportunity to visit the patients. As far as hospitals go, this one was very good. The United States built it in the early 1950s and it still looks brand new. Everything was sparkling clean. The staff was professional but super courteous and friendly. Best of all, it didn’t smell like a hospital.

The common theme I noticed from every conversation was a desire to get back with their comrades.

The patients seemed pleased to see and talk with folks from home. The common theme I noticed from every conversation was a desire to get back with their comrades. All regretted they weren’t there to help their unit complete their mission.

— Brenda

Brenda Valentine’s Outdoor Legends Tour: Day 1

Gazing out the window of Flight 700 headed to Frankfurt, Germany, I watched the last fragment of U.S. soil near Philadelphia slowly fade from sight. I pondered what lay ahead for our small group of pioneers.

Armed Forces Entertainment and Paralyzed Veterans of America contacted me more than a year ago about being a part of a special mission called the Outdoor Legends Tour. A small group of hunting personalities representing the North American hunting community would visit troops inside a war zone to personally thank them for their service and sacrifices.

Brenda Valentine is a woman on a mission: to say thank you on behalf of the National Wild Turkey Federation to the military men and women serving our country.

It was not to be a big production, rather a personal handshaking marathon trip with stops at as many camps as possible. Every detail would have to be carefully orchestrated if it was to be carried out safely and successfully.

The group I was part of included Bill Miller from Minnesota, a pillar of the outdoor media world and an all-around nice guy. He was at the helm North American Hunting Club magazine and TV show for 28 years and has extensive gun and hunting knowledge. While Bill is experienced with all types of hunting, his specialty is waterfowl and upland birds, with a real love for training sporting dogs.

Jim Shockey is a world-renowned big game hunter and award-winning TV host. He is from Canada and a wise choice for this mission since so many Canadian military men and women serve alongside U.S. troops and allies. His trademark black cowboy hat is recognizable to hunters everywhere.

Lt. Col. Lew Deal is a retired Marine Cobra pilot who now works with Armed Forces Entertainment among other military and veterans organizations. We were glad to have someone along to advise us on military protocol. Although Lew was our official tour coordinator he soon became just one of the guys.

Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, the man behind the many successful Mossy Oak TV productions as well as a recognizable hunting personality, was scheduled to be a part of our group. However, a family health crisis kept him from going. I felt really bad for Cuz, since it’s truly in his heart to support our fighting men and women in the field.

I completed the diverse quartet. Pretty sure the service people I met from the South appreciated hearing a familiar accent with a sincere “thank y’all.”

—   Brenda

Attention outdoor TV junkies!

Big news for Pursuit Channel, home of NWTF programming! Starting TODAY it’s moving to DirecTV channel 604.

It’s a mere four remote clicks away from it’s previous home (608), but it’s a world of difference in bringing in more viewers to learn about the NWTF and our mission.

You see, right now, there’s this itty-bitty thing going on called the Olympics. NBC Sports, channel 603, is now Pursuit Channel’s neighbor, and they’ll provide great coverage of the games. Our hope is folks who may not dig women’s gymnastics will start channel surfing and land on one of our awesome shows.

Two NWTF shows are currently running on Pursuit Channel. “Get in the Game” shows viewers how to make their plot of dirt a haven for wildlife. And the exciting new “NWTF 365,” which debuted this summer, demonstrates how NWTF volunteers have stuff going on all year long — and not just during spring turkey season.

Haven’t had a chance to catch an episode of “NWTF 365” yet? Check out the show trailer below.

Then look for it on DirecTV channel 604 on Tuesdays (5:30 p.m.), Thursdays (1 a.m.) and Sundays (10 p.m.).

Find “Get in the Game” on Wednesdays (9:30 p.m.), Thursdays (5:30 p.m.), Fridays (12:30 a.m.) and Sundays (11:30 p.m.).

All times are EST.

So reset your DVRs and let your fellow hunters know of the big move. And if they don’t have Pursuit Channel, tell them they can catch episodes of “NWTF 365” and “Get in the Game” at www.pursuitchannel.com a week or so after they’ve aired.

The sound of silence

People ask me when my husband and I plan to take our son Cooper, 3, hunting.

I fight the urge to burst out laughing, because it’s neither polite nor constructive.

Instead, the recollection part of my brain takes over, and I think back to 5:30 the evening before, when I pick Cooper up from daycare, or “school” as we like to call it.

Cooper helps Daddy broadcast seed for a food plot. Of course, some kind of stuffed animal is always in tow.

Here’s typically how our 8-minute ride home goes…

Me: What did you do at school today?
Cooper:
I don’t remember. What’s that bird doing over there?
Me:
What bird?
Cooper:
That one flying. I bet it’s going home to his mommy and daddy. Or maybe McDonald’s. Do birds eat French fries?
Me:
Some will, but…
Cooper:
No they don’t. They eat seeds. We need to put seed in our feeders at home. Daddy and I need to. Hey, where’s Daddy? Is he home yet? I need to go potty.
Me:
Can you wait until we get home?
Cooper:
Can I have a treat when I get home? Daddy will give me a treat. I want a peppermint. Can I ride my bike when I get home? Will you ride with me? I need to put on my helmet. Hey, there’s a stop sign. S-T-O-P. That’s stop. You didn’t stop, Mommy. Why are stop signs red?
Me:
Well…
Cooper:
Caleb pushed me down at school today. I fell on my hiney.
Me:
Is your hiney OK?
Cooper:
Ooooooooh, you said hiney! You’re a potty mouth!

You get the drift.

But what you don’t understand is that’s ONLY THE FIRST MINUTE.

I snap out of my glazed-over look and back into the present conversation. I politely answer, “When we feel he can sit still and be quiet long enough to really enjoy it.”

In the meantime, we take him to check trail cameras and food plots. Cooper “hunts” for feathers and acorns along the way. I’ve learned to bring along a small paper bag with a handle to tote out the treasures he finds.

We talk about hunting. And we answer a TON of questions…

Where are all the deer?
Do deer sleep in the woods?
Do they get scared at night?
Why did a turkey lose that feather?
Do turkeys have mommies and daddies?
What’s that noise?
Will that bird pick me up and take me away?
Why do you have a garden in the woods?
Why is it dead?
What’s that smell?
Why do animals poop in the woods instead of the potty?

Again, all in just the first few minutes. Now you understand why Cooper isn’t quite ready to hunt. But we’re holding out that the silence — necessary for hunting and our sanity — will come in the next few years, as will his desire to take part in the activity.

That’s the beauty of Families Afield. Ever heard of it? Basically, it’s an initiative began by the NWTF, National Shooting Sports Foundation and U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance that pushes for parents, not politics to decide an appropriate hunting age for their children.

The rate we’re going, Cooper will be about 47.

 

Keepin’ Up With Brenda

Another NWTF representative is eastbound. Our spokesperson Brenda Valentine has headed overseas to personally thank our troops as part of the Outdoor Legends Tour.

She, along with TV personality Jim Shockey and North American Hunting Club’s Bill Miller, are on their way to military bases in Germany and Southwest Asia.

Meet the cast of the second Outdoor Legends Tour of 2012. Safe travels, y’all!

It’s the second tour of the year. If you remember, NWTF CEO George Thornton went on the same type of monumental voyage in March. Miss it? Then click here to get caught up.

Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version for those in a time crunch…

The NWTF partnered with armed Forces Entertainment and the Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund to participate in the Outdoors Legends Tour. George and Mossy Oak’s Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland worked closely with retired U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Col. Lew Deal to recruit outdoor industry celebrities to travel overseas to visit and entertain active-duty U.S. military personnel.

The first crew to head over yonder included George, of course, as well as USMC Maj. Gen. Randy West, former Major League Baseball player Ryan Klesko, Bass Pro Shops TV host Jerry Martin, NWTF national spokesman Michael Waddell and outdoor TV personality Jim Zumbo.

Reading George’s blog entries, no doubt the experience was a life-changer for him. And I’m pretty sure the servicemen and women appreciated the gesture.

Now we have Ms. Brenda over there slathering those brave folks with her sweet-as-molasses Southern charm and extending the most sincere gratitude that I know she has for military fighting for our freedoms.

“I am honored, humbled, flattered. I have so many feelings about being the only woman invited to join the Outdoor Legends Tour,” Brenda said. “If I can brighten the day of troops in the field and hospital with stories of hunting, home and the outdoors, it’s mission accomplished.”

For the next week or so, you can keep up with Brenda by clicking on the “Brenda’s Outdoor Legends Tour” tab to the right. Check back as often as you can to see what she’s up to. Or you can subscribe to have the most up-to-date posts sent to your inbox.

I’ll be back on the scene soon enough … if Brenda hasn’t taken over my job by then.