“I think the biggest thing [landowners can do] is invite some wounded veterans to come onto your property,” Keil says. The veterans don’t have to stay on the ranch, if housing isn’t handicapped-accessible. “They can stay at a local hotel,” he says.

“For a lot of guys, the opportunity to hunt means more to them than anything. The military has taught us to adapt and overcome. They’ll adapt and overcome to whatever they need to do,” he says. “The invitation alone means more than anything to me, and the opportunity to spend that time with other disabled veterans and other people who enjoy hunting.”

Nor does it have to be hunting. If you have a fish pond, or can take some wounded vets and their families on a horseback or ATV trail ride, for example, the effect is the same.

 

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That effect is simply getting them out of the house or hospital, and getting them talking, Keil says. “Telling our story helps us heal. The more you talk about something, the more comfortable you feel about it.” He says some wounded veterans prefer not to talk about their experiences. “But I know that in talking about it, you heal from it. That’s probably the most important reason.”

Melroe snaps the locks on the gun case and flips it open, revealing a very special Browning, slicked up and ready to work. “I am honored beyond belief to be part of this story,” Melroe says. “But I’m also honored to bring my nephew into it, and the memory of my father as well.”

Keil looks at the shotgun as it rests in its case. He casts his eyes to his twins, as busy and active as any two-year-olds can be. “I want you to know,” he says to Melroe and McMahon, “that I will cherish this shotgun for the rest of my life, and will make sure that Matt Jr. understands the story behind it. Someday, I’ll pass it along to him. It will stay in the family.” 

How you can help

According to the USO, after more than a decade of combat in Afghanistan and Iraq, 40,000 servicemen and women have been seriously wounded and an estimated 400,000 suffer from invisible wounds, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injury. There are many organizations and companies with programs to help these wounded warriors. Here are a few national programs:

Outdoor-oriented programs

If you’re interested in hosting wounded warriors on your property, contact one of these organizations for direction and guidance:

General programs

 

 

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