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For many wounded veterans, returning to civilian life is rife with challenges. A program that teams up willing ranchers with wounded veterans helps that transition.
Matt Keil shows the sip-and-puff mechanism he uses to fire a rifle or shotgun. The gun is mounted on a moving platform that Keil can manipulate with a joy stick. When he gets everything lined up, he takes the trigger mechanism in his mouth and fires.
Accomplishment and victory
The hunts aren’t trophy hunts, Deal stresses. “The key is to laugh and have fun. The big thing is camaraderie and being out there with the other guys, hunting.” And it’s the feeling of accomplishment and victory the experience gives the injured vets.
It’s a victory more and more injured vets need to experience, Deal says, which is why he’s happy to have Keil on board. “For him to go to a hospital and meet with these guys…he can look at them and say “look at me. Now get up and let’s go.’” For Keil, who has been described as “relentlessly upbeat,” it’s a mission he’s glad to take point on.
Coming home from war is tough, especially coming home with injuries. Always has been. But there’s greater recognition of that now, and there are more opportunities for injured vets to find positive outlets for their emotions and energies. “People ask me how many we help in a year,” Deal says. “I don’t know. I don’t keep count. It’s one at a time.”
T.S. Eliot wrote that home is where one starts from. For wounded warriors, it is also a place they dream of returning to.
Injured veterans interested in applying for a hunt, or landowners interested in hosting a hunt, can get information by e-mailing Deal at email@example.com, or going to www.pvaheritagefund.org.
Deal is interested in reaching not only injured veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, but older veterans as well. “We need more vets to apply, especially some of the older vets from past wars who would like to get involved,” he says. “Many have not been part of this surge that’s going on now.”