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Column: Hunt of a lifetime

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By Chris Cannon

For some, it’s killing a Rocky Mountain elk.

Others, it’s getting a Grand Slam turkey hunt all in the same year, while others go for the Big 5 in Africa.

However, on Saturday, as the rain pitter-pattered off the roof of the hunting blind, I realized it was a hunt of a lifetime.

Sitting in the blind with Kevin Honaker, I was able to experience the hunt with the United States Marine.

As rain spilled into the blind and silence fell over the field, Honaker began to tell his story.

The Wounded Warrior stepped on an IED. He lost both of his legs in the blast.

“You can’t see them,” he said. “They will pour water over it after they bury them, and you may only see a few cracks in the sand.”

While Honaker didn’t kill a bird, it was the thrill of the hunt that many of the men talked about.

According to Terry Lewis, the Willing Sportsman event has touched “200-300 people, not counting the lives of the volunteers that we’ve been able to change.”

Well, Mr. Lewis, you can add one more name to that list.

The experiences I came away with from the event on Saturday were eye-opening.

Too often, we take so many things for granted.

We can stand up straight, walk natural and we have all of our limbs.

However, often we don’t take advantage of those things.

Today’s generation will moan and groan because Wi-Fi isn’t available, which allows them to sit idly indoors as the outside world passes them by.

For many of these hunters, it was a chance to do something they might not get to do until this time next year rolls around.

Riding in the side-by-side to many of the hunt sites, it was always, as Master Sgt. Michael Trost put it, like a kid on Christmas.

Seeing the faces of the hunters as the congratulations abound was simply awe-inspiring. Other hunters, volunteers and often complete strangers would come up to these guys in order to show gratitude and congratulations.

According to Billy Ball, the event becomes more like a family atmosphere, and I can truly say I felt it.

Returning from the hunt with Honaker, Lewis informed us that seven more hunters had gotten birds during their evening hunt.

The five-minute ride felt like 20 minutes, as we all hoped to get back to congratulate these hunters.

Interviewing them for stories was a relaxed conversation, as the excitement in their words sparked the interest of the hunters around them.

“For me, it made me feel like a kid again…for a few minutes, it made me forget about everything,” Trost said.

The work that the National Wild Turkey Federation and the Pine Mountain Longbeards do, as well as the numerous other sponsors, really make this event special.

On numerous times, Ball and Lewis would ask me, “Well, what do you think?”

They probably thought I was crazy, as my only response was, “I’m just having fun,” but there were really no words to describe the emotions and the feelings exuding from the hunters..

The resilience and their ability to overcome what they’ve been through should inspire each person.

I encourage everyone to attend one of these events and see the true bravery and thank the Wounded Warriors who have risked their lives to give us our everyday liberties.

Without them, our freedoms wouldn’t be here today.