Wounded Warriors Go Bear Hunting in WV

   

The South Fork of Potomac River in West Virginia is a long way and a lot different from the streets of Baghdad or the mountains of Afghanistan.   Therefore, it served as the perfect venue for battled hardened veterans to let go.

Nine wounded war vets enjoyed a bear hunt in the mountains surrounding the South Fork of the Potomac in Pendleton County September 26-28.   They were guests of the Potomac Highlands Wounded Warrior Outreach Program who staged the special hunt for a second straight year.

"We had local volunteer support form the bear hunters up here," said Bill Armstrong, director of the organization. "They said, ‘You bring the guys down and we’ll hook up with them and take them bear hunting and show them a good time.’  Seven out of the nine guys got bears."

It was a new experienced for the recovering soldiers and sailors who needed a break from their recovery at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital.

"When they come in here some of them are so…..hurt, is probably the best word for it.  You can see it in their eyes and on their face," Armstrong said. "But after a couple of days when they leave they’ve got a big smile on their face and it just makes your heart want to bust."

Armstrong himself is retired from the Army.  During his active duty time in eastern Maryland he helped out by taking patients from Bethesda fishing on the Chesapeake Bay.   When he retired back to his native Pendleton County he believed there was an opportunity to use the mountains as therapy for guys who certainly need it.   Next week, another group from Walter Reed will come to West Virginia for a whitetail bow hunt.

"These guys are all amputees.  They’re still active duty and still recovering.  They haven’t been off the battlefield very long," he said. "These guys are so tough, they don’t want to be limited by anything.  A lot of times we may have to pick them up and put them in a blind or on a four-wheeler. But other than that, they just want you to get out of the way."

The West Virginia DNR was among those involved in making the event happen. 

“Giving these young solders an opportunity to enjoy the great hunting and the wonderful outdoor experiences we have in WV is truly our pleasure and honor,” said DNR Director Frank Jezioro. “The strong support of the local bear hunters and all the volunteers that worked so hard to make this happen shows how much West Virginians appreciate the sacrifices these brave young people have made.”

Armstrong says the organization is all volunteers in the local community and they operate off donations and voluntary contributions.   Anyone interested in donating or becoming involved can call him at 304-358-7322. 

"We’re looking to expand next year," Armstrong said. "Walter Reed wants to do some whitewater rafting, rock climbing, and that sort of thing.  There may be opportunities in the future where we expand out into West Virginia a little more."

 

 

 





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