Saturday marked the culmination of a weeklong hunt to benefit wounded warriors, and with the funds raised through the event, Fort Rucker is giving back to Soldiers.
The installation hosted its fifth annual Wounded Warrior Hunt, which ran from Oct. 4 to Saturday, and saw more than 40 wounded warriors from Alabama, Georgia and Florida participate, said John Clancy, Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation manager.
“This is a good opportunity for camaraderie and to bring all of these Soldiers together and show how much the surrounding communities really care about them and what they’ve done,” said Clancy.
“This is about remembering and recognizing the sacrifices that these (Soldiers) have gone through,” added Col. Stuart J. McRae, Fort Rucker garrison commander. “They’ve sacrificed more than just their time, so we want to remind them that we’re there for them for the long haul.”
During this year’s hunt, participants hunted feral pigs and coyotes, and each hunter was awarded points per kill – 3 points per pig and 15 points per coyote.
The hunt raised more than $22,000, which will go toward purchasing a 47-foot, handicap-accessible camping trailer, said McRae, adding that the equipment that is available for wounded warriors is available for them to rent at no cost.
Past hunts have raised enough funds to provide other equipment, which includes two handicap-accessible elevated tree stands, a track chair and a customized handicap-accessible boat.
For most participants, however, the hunt was less about the points or equipment and more about the fellowship.
Retired Col. Greg Estes, who served in the Alabama National Guard, returned to the hunt for his second year, and said his reasoning was based on mentorship and leadership.
“This year I wanted to participate and take a couple wounded warriors out and guide them, and that’s what I really enjoyed,” he said. “By me coming out here, what I learned was that another part of my leadership was to be the example, to show them that senior guys have problems, too, and we have to recover from them.”
Estes, a 30-year veteran, also said it’s a good opportunity for Soldiers to talk to senior leaders and realize that regardless of rank, all Soldiers can face the same issues.
“I’m a colonel, and it’s unusual to see a colonel at these events, but the young Soldiers get to realize that sergeants major and colonels have problems, too, and we have to deal with them,” he said. “This program is an eye-opening thing because you’ve got your medical stuff that’s going on with these Soldiers and this is a chance for them to get away, and the Army supports it 100 percent along with the community.”
But one thing that Estes said most people fail to realize is that the support runs both ways.
“We come here and do this and (the community) is always thanking us, but people don’t realize how the Soldier has to thank the civilians,” said the retired colonel.
Estes has served in multiple deployments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and Dubai, and served in both Operations Desert Strom and Desert Shield, and said if it weren’t for the community support his family received while he was gone, he might not have made it through those times with sound mind.
“I don’t think the public really realizes how much the Soldiers really appreciate this, how much it means to them and how much it helps the healing process,” he said. “We owe as much thanks to the local people who supported us while we were over there (as they do to us).”