Wounded Warriors hunt held at local hunting club

A special hunting event for Wounded Warriors has proven to be a lifesaver for injured and wounded soldiers who are striving to adjust to life as a civilian.

Mike Husley can attest to that personally. Husley said he owes his life to the fourth annual special hunting event sponsored by the Grassy Lake Hunting Club near Ware and Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

The 2012 Wounded Warriors hunt for the soldiers was held Thursday, Nov. 30.

"I had a loaded shotgun barrel in my mouth when I got a call inviting me to this event three years ago," said Husley, an Owensboro, Ky., resident who was medically discharged from the military.

"I decided to go and it completely changed my life."

Husley said he was completely frustrated by nagging war injuries. Husley said the frustration led him to contemplate taking his own life.

"If that call would have come five seconds later, that would have been it," Husley said. He hinted that  the timing of the call just could have been traced to divine intervention.

Husley recalled that his family said he came back from the hunt as "a new person. It was very positive and helped me head in the right direction. I look forward to this now every year."

Hulsey was one of 16 injured and disabled soldiers participating in the hunt from Fort Campbell Kentucky's Warrior in Transition Battalion. The club provided guides in five different hunting pits for the disabled veterans as part of the Wounded Warrior experience.

"It's one of the best things we do," said Gerald "Eagle" Cain, who is a part owner of the Grassy Lake Hunting Club with his son, Collin.

"These war veterans have done an awful lot for us. They are having a good time and love to hunt and this helps make life worthwhile for them."

"This is part of the healing process," said Kristin Streakley, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn., one of two

women who were participating in the event for the first time.

"This gets better every year," said disabled veteran Adam Peacock of Fort Campbell. "We leave here as friends and come back the following year and meet more new friends."

Following the morning hunt, the disabled veterans were treated to a noon meal at the Grassy Lake clubhouse. Several special guests spoke to the veterans.

"It's so good to see familiar faces here," said SIUC chancellor Rita Cheng. "SIU is really committed to education for veterans who are returning from the service. If you decided to go to school, being there for you is what SIU is all about. We're committed to making a difference."

"We can't thank you guys enough," said SIUC athletics director Mario Moccia. "The fans loved you guys at the game last night. I believe it's one of the best things we do all year."

The Wounded Warriors donated a flag flown in Afghanistan to SIU.

The Wounded Warriors attended the SIUC/Fresno State men's basketball game which was played the night before the hunt in the SIU Arena and were honored at halftime by the fans at the event.

"The win (over Fresno State) pales in comparison to the sacrifices you have made," SIU men's basketball head coach Barry Hinson said. "Thank you for allowing us to be in your presence. You want to come home, come to Southern Illinois. You are family here."

"We were treated like royalty at the game," said Gary Sharp of Fort Campbell, who organizes and works to seek sponsors for the event thoughout the year with Tom Goetz of Jonesboro.

Sharp praised Hinson. He said the new SIUC coach "was inspirational at the game." Sharp said that Hinson talked about how players can be seen as heroes on the basketball court, but disabled veterans "are the real heroes."

Something extra was added to this year's hunt. Behesha Doan, a disabled veteran dog trainer from Carbondale, brought three of her trained dogs to the event. She has been in the dog training business for 21 years and has trained dogs for the military, law enforcement and service.

"Thank you for letting us serve you," said Doan. She said her dog training is the only one in the country designed for returning veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, PTSD, from the war.

The five different hunting groups participating in the hunt harvested 15 ducks and two snow geese.

"This gets better every year," Sharp said. "God bless all of you (for helping) and I hope we're all able to return next year."

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