feature By: Lefty Ray Chapa | March, 20
Serving our country in the armed forces is a dangerous profession. During times of war, some service members pay the ultimate sacrifice. Some return with physical damage beyond repair. Others might get injured in the normal course of their service work and some even after they have left active duty.
Brooks Army Medical Center (BAMC), the very large military hospital in San Antonio, Texas, is where many vets are sent to have their injuries tended to and/or for rehabilitation. Formal veteran organizations and an informal network of veterans help get injured veterans outside to participate in recreational pursuits these vets thought they could never do again. Activities such as these, according to one vet, are “a life-changing experience.”
This day, it was time for some upland hunting. Scott Caudill helped arrange a European-style driven upland hunt for pheasants on the Joshua Creek Ranch in nearby Boerne, Texas, for some paraplegic veterans.
1. To start the hunt, the veterans ride their motorized wheelchairs onto a flatbed trailer to be taken to the hunting site. This method makes transporting them easy and allows all the vets to arrive at the same time with their guns and gear.
2. These Action Trackchairs can go over any terrain. Tabanski says they are “awesome.” These chairs provide freedom, independence and mobility. These allow paraplegics to go hunting, hiking, fishing and much more. This brand is considered an all-terrain wheelchair with tracks. (Josue Lopez pictured)
3. Josue Lopez was an Army medic attached to an artillery unit. Lopez never hunted prior to his time in the Army. He said, “After my injury, Guerrero asked if I wanted to do some hunting.” He added, “He told me to try it. Well, I was hooked after that.”
4. Once at the hunting site, the vets are spread out in a line facing the cliff. With the signal, the pheasant are driven from above towards the cliff. Once the pheasants spring out high into the open sky, it’s Game On!
5. After the Army, David Bradshaw became a firefighter. An accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. He said, “I was a pretty miserable guy. I had (mentally) gone into a cave and shut everyone off.” He was invited to go hunting and agreed to go just to see that he could not do it. The positive impact was immediate. “(Shooting) gave me my life back.”
6. David Bradshaw.
7. Joshua Creek Ranch and its guides use several English cockers to retrieve the pheasants. Oblivious to the shooting going on and the motorized wheelchairs, the dogs scurry about looking for downed birds.
8. David Bradshaw said, “This did so much good for me, I started volunteering. I met Alvin (Guerrero) that way. I now coordinate hunts and take guys hunting; it makes a huge difference (in the vets’ lives). A lot of these guys thought they never could do this again, especially the younger ones.”