EDINBURGH, Ind. — Each war leaves a legacy. One of those legacies is the amount of wounded left in war’s wake. Thanks to technology and doctrine, the casualties in our current wars have resulted in fewer American military deaths than previous conflicts. Those who survive bear the physical and emotional scars of their experiences. Also unlike previous wars, there exists a greater awareness of the needs of these veterans and programs have sprung up to help them move forward, deal with the long-term effects of their injuries and reintegrate into society.
One such program to help these veterans move past their injuries is the Wounded Warrior Hunt held at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center, Ind. The hunt started Oct. 22 and concluded with a dinner and social Oct. 26.
It took place in the training areas throughout Camp Atterbury and a day of fishing at a private lake that was opened to the veterans, said Ryan Mangus, of Greenwood, Ind., who help facilitate the event.
“This is our third hunt; we had two deer hunts, including this one, and a turkey hunt last spring,” said Mangus, who is an 18-year Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient. “Plans are ongoing and we intend to have another turkey hunt in April. We had nine hunters total this time and the feedback has been really positive.”
The purpose of the hunt is to help wounded veterans reintegrate into society and get back to doing activities they enjoyed before their injuries, said Master Sgt. Bobby Farmer, of Fort Bragg.
“These programs are extremely important,” said Farmer, who has received three Purple Hearts. “Not only is it important for the guys to get out of the hospital, but taking their minds off their injuries and getting them reintegrated back in to society. Let them forget about their wounds for a little while. I think the Army needs to do more things like this for the guys.”
Farmer helped organize the first hunt working with Mangus and Capt. Matthew Hall, who met during a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006. But this time Farmer participated in the hunt.
“Matt, Ryan and I helped organize the first fall hunt at Camp Atterbury last November. We brought out eight guys from 3rd Special Forces Group to hunt. That one was such a success that they organized a spring turkey hunt. Everybody liked it so much that it is an ongoing thing right now.”
Farmer said the personal involvement in this program comes from his own journey through the healing process.
“I’ve come full circle from being wounded and going on my first trip to taking guys out and doing stuff like this. Not only is this for the guys, but their Families. They get a break from the hospital appointments.
Master Sgt. David Glenn, also of Fort Bragg and a hunt participant, said programs like these are a way to decompress.
“I got involved in the program through Bobby. He and Ryan Mangus and Matt Hall had an idea to do this and things just fell into place with Ryan and Matt working out here. They had the idea of putting on a wounded warrior hunt and it came to fruition last year.”
Glenn has deployed to Afghanistan five times and to Iraq once. Two of his Afghanistan deployments occurred post injury.
“I was injured about eight years ago and I avoided all the outreach programs. The only thing I was focused on was getting back to my job. Some of the newer guys who have been wounded come here and some of them are still coping with post traumatic stress disorder issues or that they have been wounded. It helps to get them with the older guys and help them decompress. For me, it’s a chance to hang out with friends, which is difficult due to deployments and training cycles. Bobby and I are in the process of retiring, so we haven’t had much of a chance to see each other. So it’s nice to get together with friends, relax and go hunting together. It’s all good times.”
The Army has been focusing on issues of PTSD and traumatic brain injuries for some time and programs like the Wounded Warrior Hunt help these veterans deal with their injuries.
“Some of us have gotten help with issues. It’s a nice reminder that when you get away from the military bases, that there is still patriotism and appreciation for what we do.”
Glenn said the important thing for those wounded in action is perseverance.
“Never give up. I was one of the first guys to get mangled this bad and stay on.” Glenn’s injuries resulted in double, below-the-knee amputations.
“Whether you’ve been shot or mangled as bad I have been, you just have to drive on and move past it; not to dwell on it. You have a life to live, go live it.”
Mangus said it is amazing to see the camaraderie develop between the participants through their shared experiences.
“Some of the guys who come to this have never met, but after a few days, it’s like they have known each other for their entire lives,” said Mangus.
Mangus is involved in other programs for wounded warriors and said how we treat our veterans and those injured in the line of duty, is a statement about who we are as a country and society.
“This is a worthy cause,” said Mangus. “We still don’t know what the cost or legacy of the wars are, but some of the guys came back pretty messed up. We owe it to them to help. It’s all about showing that someone still cares.”