"The smallest gestures mean so much..." Michael Savoie, retired Marine
How do you repay someone who stood in the line of fire to protect your rights as an American? Is there a way to even begin to reimburse a person who served and was injured in order for the rest of us to sleep well at night?
The Wounded Warrior Association of East Texas and West Louisiana is doing their part to support those combat wounded, Purple Heart recipients by taking them on hunting trips as well as other events and giving them a time to fellowship with other soldiers who understand what they are going through.
Co-founder Chuck Williams, who is a wounded warrior himself and understands the recovery process of returning home after being injured, was in Bonita this week with two veterans at the Top Gun Hunting Camp. Williams discovered guide service as he was surfing the internet one night and sent an email asking if they would be interested in donating a hunt.
"Of course, we said yes!" Colby Daniels, full-time guide and son of Top Guns Guides Founder Davy Daniels said. "It's a small favor to ask and a great thing to do in return for all they have done for us and our country."
Williams, who was wounded in 2006 and medically retired in 2011, met fellow co-founder Buck Collins while in a brain injury clinic. They formed the association because so many of those wounded could not travel long distances to hunt with other groups and wanted to do something for those living in and around East Texas and West La.
"We started this to help out guys in our local area who may can't ride six or seven hours," Williams said. 'So far, we have been able to take 74 on hunting and fishing expeditions.
"Being with fellow Wounded Warriors, learning of their struggles with all aspects of their recovery, the medical system and other issues that effect or can effect each of us is possibly the most helpful thing that occurs on these events," Williams continued. "All Warriors have a similar bond but all are in different stages of recovery. We learn from the others, good and bad, and put that information in our "kit" bags for our success."
Kinion Bankston of Southern Boyz Outdoors TV show was also on hand to film the two-day hunt and is grateful for the opportunity to be a part of the gathering.
"I have had the privilege of hearing their testimonies, about what they have been through in war," Bankston said. "All I can say is next time you see a Veteran tell him Thank You."
Jason Deming is a Georgia boy wounded in combat and Purple Heart recipient now living at Fork Polk. He took part in his second duck hunt while at Top Gun and is appreciative for the opportunities given by Williams and his association.
"We had a most productive day today," Deming said, while grinning from ear to ear. "Being able to have the chance to hunt and spend time with fellow soldiers is really great."
As the men sat around the camp waiting for Williams to finish cooking breakfast, swapping stories and lies, a second soldier came in. Michael Savoie has been out in the woods looking for a big buck. He, too is a wounded warrior, receiving his first Purple Heart after being shot in the head in 2004 while in Iraq and his second Purple Heart after a road-side bomb exploded and he swallowed the flame, burning everything from his palate to his lungs. Savoie medically retired in 2009 and has being doing hunts such as these for several years.
"It's unreal what these events do for us," Savoie said. "Sometimes depression kicks in and you don't know who you can talk to. These events where we can talk to fellow vets who love, care for and support each other have literally saved my life.
"The smallest gestures mean the world to us and I thank everybody that volunteers to helps out and does something for someone they don't even know," Savoie said.
To learn more about the Wounded Warrior Association of East Texas and West Louisiana, email Williams at Viperdrill39@yahoo.com or check them out on Facebook at Wounded Warrior Association of East Texas and West Louisiana. The nonprofit organization takes these soldiers to events at no cost; the association pays for their license, food and travel.
Southern Boyz Outdoor Show can be seen on The Hunt Channel 266 on Dish Network at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, www.huntchannel.tv, at www.southernboyzoutdoors.com and on Facebook at Southernboyzoutdoors.
Colby Daniels and Top Gun Guides and be found at www.topgunguides.com.