Ken Barnard has a message for those who think Soldiers signed up for anything that comes their way, whether it is injuries or death.
“The Gold Star kids didn’t sign up for anything. Most of them weren’t even born at 9/11,” said Barnard who co-founded Patriot Hunts, along with his wife Pam, 10 years ago. Both are military brats and further connected to the military by the service of their son-in-law, a United States Special Operations Command Soldier.
The nonprofit organization was founded to provide outdoor recreation experiences for wounded warriors and Gold Star youth.
Today’s service members are fighting the longest war in American history and deserve to be remembered for their sacrifices, Barnard said.
“Since it’s been 15 to 16 years since 9/11, people become complacent. They don’t think or dwell on it like they did after 9/11,” he explained.
Where others are complacent, Patriot Hunts is not.
It has provided hunting experiences to wounded warriors and Gold Star Families at different locations including a duck hunt at Lake Waccamaw and a feral hog hunt in Johnston County, both in North Carolina.
They’ve held pheasant hunts at Allen Brothers Hunting Preserve in Bladenboro, North Carolina.
But, the demand to provide experiences for the wounded and for Families of the Fallen isn’t isolated to Fort Bragg, so Patriot Hunts has expanded beyond the state.
Upcoming turkey hunts this month are scheduled for Oklahoma, Nebraska and Kansas. Chapters are planned for Texas, South Carolina and Maryland, said Barnard.
Expansion saves expenses for Patriot Hunts, which funnels 100 percent of its monies back into events, providing food, transportation, weapons, gear and anything an attendee needs to participate.
“It was a matter or emailing, writing and calling landowners and sponsors,” Barnard said. “We can work with the VA, (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs), the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), any FRGs (Family readiness groups). It makes it easier when we don’t have to fly guys across the country.”
Patriot Hunts is always in need of sponsors and volunteers. It typically takes 10 to 15 volunteers per outing, if only to pour coffee, serve food or to provide guidance lost by the death of their parent.
Giving back is an honor and a personal debt that Barnard said he feels he owes, and it’s important.
He said, “Today may be our last day on this Earth. We should take the time and understand the sacrifice that they (Soldiers) make. Somebody left their Family. Somebody gave up a limb. Somebody gave up a life.”