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.