Wounded veterans participate in special hunt
For the last nine years, the Grassy Lake Hunting Club at Ware has hosted wounded veteran soldiers for a one-day waterfowl hunt on Wednesday, Dec. 20.
“It’s the biggest honor I’ve ever had in my life,” said Collin Cain, who owns the Grassy Lake Hunting Club about hosting the special event.
“It makes you feel so humble doing something for them. I’m so blessed and honored to show them a good time for a day.”
Cain said the hunt was put together nine years ago by his club manager, Tom Goetz, and the head of the Warrior Initative program Gary Adams.
“We care about them as a person,” Adams said.
The club sponsored 15 veterans affiliated with Fort Campbell, Ky., and Clarksville, Tenn., along with guides and volunteers.
“I came back from Vietnam with nothing,” said Gen. Ron McFadden, who spoke to the group following the hunt and meal at the Grassy Lake club house on Wednesday, Dec. 20. “We want to keep these guys going and give them a reason to get up tomorrow.”
McFadden said hunts like the one held at the Union County club, helps cut into the high veteran suicide rate.
“We take at risk veterans that are falling on hard times,” McFadden said. “We help pay their bills and their groceries. We want to keep these guys going.”
State Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, donned camouflage and was involved in the hunt.
“It’s an honor to go out and hunt with them,” said Bryant, following the hunt. “It’s been a lot of fun. I still have a brother serving in the Air Force reserves.”
“It’s an awesome program,” said retired Maj. Benjamin Wilkins of Clarksville, Tenn. Wilkins said he learned about the hunt through a friend. “I’m still trying to adjust to civilian life after retiring,” he said.
For many it was their first time doing a waterfowl hunt like this.
“This was my first time up here hunting,” McFadden said. “So far I’ve had a great time.”
“I’ve never worried about anything like this until my two sons joined,” retired Brig. Gen. Wayne Rosenthal said. Rosenthal is the director of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “This is why we’re here, I want to thank everyone for their service and what they’ve done for our country.”
The wounded soldiers were having a good time with the camaraderie.
“I’m having a good time,” said wounded veteran Stacie Vandrie following the hunt. “This is a blessing. It’s really special them doing something like this.”
The wounded soldiers harvested 18 ducks and two geese during the day-long hunt.
A noon meal was served at the clubhouse by Raymond Crane following the morning’s hunt on Wednesday.
“I love it like we were all family,” said Col. William Hawk. “These were all terrific people doing this.”
Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s chancellor’s secretary Julie K. McDaniel and Great Boars Restaurant owner Dave Fombelle were each presented with battle flags following the meal.
SIUC was honored for hosting the wounded soldiers at a basketball game without charge against UNC A&T on Tuesday, Dec. 19. Fombelle was honored for providing a meal on the evening before the game at his restaurant.
The hunters then resumed hunting following the meal until shooting hours concluded.
Gary Wright of Cobden donated bus services to the evening dinner, the hunt and the SIU basketball game.
Others who helped to support the special event were the Davie School Inn in Anna, which gave the group complimentary room and board.
Former Anna-Jonesboro Community High School boys’ basketball coach Mike Crews spoke at the meal prior to the game, praising the wounded soldiers for their service.
Crews noted his father was a veteran having serviced in the Sea Bees during World War II.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources waived all fees and granted permits for the wounded soldiers to hunt.