Hunting club welcomes Wounded Warriors

The ducks and geese didn't cooperate a whole lot at the Grassy Lake Hunting Club near Ware Saturday, Jan. 14. But that didn't seem to make a lot of difference.

"I don't care if a goose flies by me or not," said Shawn Lee of Jefferson City, Mo. "It's just been a great time."

Lee was from a group of 15 hunters who were participating in the third annual Wounded Warriors duck hunt along with members of the disabled military veterans from the U.S. Army base at Fort Campbell, Ky.

The hunters, who began hunting early, took a break for a noon meal at the Grassy Lake clubhouse.

After returning to the field, they ended up harvesting 10 ducks and three speckled belly geese by the time shooting hours ended at dusk.

The injured soldiers involved in the hunt were veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"I'm honored to come back here," said Adam Peacock, a disabled veteran with one leg, who was participating in the hunt for the third time. "This gets me out doing things I couldn't do before."

The club provided guides in each of the hunting pits for the disabled veterans as part of the Wounded Warriors experience.

"It's really a good program," said Tim Dodson, who was also at the hunt for the third time. "It allows soldiers to concentrate on strictly healing."

"If it weren't for this program, I don't know what I'd do," said Jamie Dennis, who was injured in Afghanistan and medically discharged.

"I couldn't outrun a bullet over there (Afghanistan) no matter how hard I tried," said Mike Hulsey of Nortonville, Ky., who was to be medically discharged this month. "I'm glad to be part of this."

Tom Goetz of Jonesboro and Gary Adams of Clarksville, Tenn., have organized the hunt for the last three years at the Grassy Lake Hunting Club.

"This has kind of taken off," Adams said. "We've got a bunch of new guys coming out and it's good from the therapy aspect. They're not thinking about their injury, it's a good change of pace and exercise for them."

"This is a program we heartily support," said Brig. Gen. Johnny Miller, who is in charge of the Illinois National Guard.

"I'm really proud of the support the program is getting. It speaks well for our state and country that  these guys aren't from Illinois, but we still support them." 

Goetz works tirelessly on gaining numerous area sponsors for the event.

The hunt kicked off with a meal at the Vienna Veterans of Foreign Wars, meal and lodging at the Trail of Tears Lodge near Jonesboro, contributions from Anna and Carbondale businesses and recognition of the veterans at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale men's basketball game against Indiana State which was played Friday, Jan. 13.

The hunters and 10 World War II veterans were introduced at the halftime of the game. They were given a standing ovation.

"It was an honor to go out there with them," said Collin Cain, owner of the Grassy Lake Hunting Club who provides the hunt. Both Cain and his father, Gerald, walked on the floor with the players.

"It was such an honor to be with them," Collin said. "The bottom line is we can't do anything without this group of guys. For what they've done for their country, we're giving a little bit back. I feel blessed to be part of this."

Gift packages from SIUC, the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and local businesses were presented to the veterans.

SIUC chancellor Rita Cheng and director of athletics Mario Moccia each praised and thanked the wounded soldiers for their service following Friday's meal at the hunting club.

Following the meal, several awards were presented to various individuals. SIUC was presented with a plaque and a flag that flew in Afghanistan.

"There's a lot of healing that goes on in a duck blind," said Ron Gullion, who is a founder of the Healing Outside a Hospital program. "This is good to recognize the soldiers and that we appreciate their sacrifice."

Gullion noted there's a lot of camaraderie among the hunters which helps soldiers who might be facing depression following their deployment, as well as their physical wounds

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