Originally published on GoWild.
Our veterans have made so many sacrifices for the betterment of our country, for our liberties, and for the greater good. They have sacrificed their health, time with their families, and time for themselves. They have missed out on holidays, birthdays, family events, and many have missed out on hunting and fishing traditions as well.
Freedom Hunters Helps Get Veterans Back to the Outdoors
Jim Shockey, an award-winning outdoor writer, photographer and wilderness guide, understood the importance of our veterans and the sacrifices they’ve made. He wanted to honor them, so during a dinner one night he turned to Anthony Pace to help come up with ways veterans could be honored. Anthony came back to Jim with an idea for an organization that helps connect veterans with conservation groups, outfitters, land owners, and other supporters to go on outdoor adventures. That was more than 16 years ago, since then Freedom Hunters, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, has helped more than 10,000 veterans, and their families, find their way back into the outdoors.
Freedom hunters helps facilitate all manner of different types of outdoor adventures. From a day of shooting prairie dogs, to week long whitetail hunts, and even Jim Shockey’s all-expenses paid Military Tribute Hunts, each outing is worthwhile and beneficial for the veterans.
When talking about the impact Freedom Hunters has had on participants Anthony said, “Anything to get them off the couch, a half day fishing trip can help turn their life around.”
What a Difference a Weekend Hunting Can Make
Anthony recalled a memorable weekend of outdoor adventures he had the opportunity to share with Todd Rito, a veteran that was recovering in Walter Reed Hospital from injuries sustained while in Iraq.
“Here was this country boy stuck in the city and it was driving him nuts not being able to get out into the woods,” Anthony explained. So they planned a weekend of hunting and fishing in Florida. “An hour and a half after getting off the plane we were chasing hogs in the swamp. You couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face!”
Over the next few days they were on an airboat chasing hogs, turkeys, and gators in the swamps of Florida.
“When you first get wounded like that you go through a period of depression,” remembers Todd. “I didn’t feel like I was worthy of it,” when he was first asked to go with Anthony on the hunt. “It changed me. It lifted my spirits up and gave me the confidence that I could still get out there and do the things I love to do. It’s a great organization,” said Todd.
Now retired from the Army, Todd is a volunteer for Freedom Hunters, helping raise funds for the organization. He also helps coordinate an all veteran shooting team for an event at the Rockcastle Shooting Center in Kentucky.
How Veterans Can Apply to Participate
Any and all military veterans are encouraged to apply to participate in a hunt or outdoor adventure. Freedom Hunters has hosted World War II veterans up to active duty service men and women, and everything in between. Many veterans that have gone on the hunts that Freedom Hunters coordinates have had limited to no amount of hunting experience.
When asked if hunting experience is necessary Anthony had this to say; “I like to see new guys get an opportunity to hunt. So many times we’ve had guys do something for the first time, then they are hooked for life. It just takes that first experience and they build on from that.”
Veterans can go to the Freedom Hunters website to apply for an outdoor adventure.