2013 NWTF Convention: In case you missed it (Now…)

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.

Totally cool to have my photo made with "Gene Simmons." Not creepy at all that I'm old enough to be this impersonator's mom...

Totally cool to have my photo made with “Gene Simmons.” Not creepy at all that I’m old enough to be this impersonator’s mom…

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.






Get over yourself

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.

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My favorite veterans

I love old pictures. Not only do they look cool with their faded grays and sepia tones, it’s fun to hear the stories behind them.

Here are four of my favorites. I have them side-by-side in a frame at my house.

Meet my grandparents when they were beginning their lives together during times of war, conflict and unrest. Probably not so different than many young couples today.

These are my dad’s parents.

Granddad Lee served as Yeoman First Class in the U.S. Navy during World War II. He was stationed in Mobile, Ala., and got a pass one weekend in 1941, when he hopped a bus to Chattanooga, Tenn., and married my grandmother on a Saturday before he headed back south to report for duty Monday morning. He remained stateside during the war, and built a life with his young bride that would last 61 years before my grandmother left for Heaven. Together, they raised four children who gave them eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

These are my mother’s parents.

Granddaddy Langham (everyone else called him Joe) was a Seabee, who spent time overseas during WWII and the Korean Conflict. He told us stories about his adventures abroad, always prefacing them with the statement, “Now this was before I found the Lord.” He became a Southern Baptist preacher, planting several small country churches along the coasts of Florida, Alabama and Mississippi. He married Hazel Clark in 1944, raised four children and enjoyed nine grandchildren and a handful of great-grandchildren before Grandmamma Langham passed away in 2000.

It’s fun to relive the romance and nostalgia of past generations, but I’m sure they dealt with many of the same difficulties today’s military families face. Funny how the good moments seem to erase the rough ones over time.

I’m not in the military, nor is my husband or anyone else in my immediate family, so I can’t begin to understand the challenges of those who actively serve our country in times of war and conflict.

I may not be able to empathize, but I can pray. Pray for their personal safety. Pray they have the same rock solid support my grandfathers had back on the home front decades ago. Pray they return to their families unharmed.

Hug a veteran today. Or at least shake his or her hand. What they did for our country, or what they’re doing now, undoubtedly leaves a lasting legacy for future generations.