Matt Lutynski medically retired from the Air Force in 2008, following 17 years of service. As a child growing up in Connecticut, Lutynski said he always enjoyed pheasant hunting, but with limited funds and financial responsibility for his Family of four, he could no longer afford the activity.
Enter Patriot Hunts, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing recreation opportunities for wounded warriors and active-duty Soldiers and their Families.
On Saturday, Lutynski joined about 70 other hunters for a pheasant hunt on the Allen Brothers Hunting Preserve in Bladenboro, N.C., courtesy of Patriot Hunts.
“Living off Veterans Administration (benefits) and supporting four people, there’s no way I can pay for this,” Lutynski said. “It’s good to be able to do this and not worry about paying for it.”
For Families, pheasant hunting provided a way to step away from the stress of work.
“It’s the best thing for these guys for the bonding and not have to worry about work,” said Angela Colucci, the wife of a Special Forces Soldier.
Maj. Gen. (ret.) Chuck Swannack, a former 82nd Airborne Division commanding general who led forces in Iraq, said the pheasant hunt serves yet another purpose.
“It’s very therapeutic for them, for all the stresses they go through. This is some time to come together and enjoy the day,” Swannack said.
For Ron Allen, a veteran and co-owner with his brother Joe of the 1400-acre preserve, providing the land for hunting makes sense.
“Our father was wounded in World War II and we are very familiar with it (sacrifice). I know the importance of service and why we should give back,” he said.
Matt Poland is an avid hunter who wants to share the experience with his son, Grayson, 7.
“I want to teach him about the outdoors and let him enjoy the experience,” said Poland.
Patrick Henry, another military retiree, grew up in the mountains of western North Carolina. It was a childhood spent not only pheasant hunting, but squirrel hunting and crawfishing and enjoying the outdoors.
Joined by his brother, Robert, a firefighter, Henry said he hunts any chance he gets.
“I just want to smell some gun powder — its been awhile,” said Henry.
Saturday’s pheasant hunt was the culmination of a lot of hard work, said Ken Barnard, founder of Patriot Hunts.
“We do this for the well being and morale of our Soldiers and their military Families,” he said.
A veteran who knows sacrifice, Barnard has seemingly made it his life’s mission to give back to the milaitary.
“Seeing these Soldiers walking with canes, or even worse, the loss of a limb, sometimes seeing the pain on their faces just from standing or sitting, is very hard at times,” he posted on his website. “These warriors may be hurting on the inside, but they are smiling on the outside and having the time of their lives. They constantly endure the pain of their injuries and take the time to come out and be with Patriot Hunts, the least I can do is put my emotions aside during these events, which is hard, and press forward making sure they have the best time possible. What a great feeling…,” said Barnard.
Michael Calhoun seemed to appreciate the fact that at the end of the hunt, the pheasants were dressed and given to the Soldiers and wounded warriors
“I’m going to take one home,” Calhoun said. “I wouldn’t kill it if I wouldn’t eat it.”
For more information or to donate to Patriot Hunts, visit www.patriothunts.org.