A group of injured soldiers made a trip over the weekend to hunt turkeys at a rock quarry north of Marion as part of a two-day event called American Heroes Turkey Hunt.
This is the second year veteran and Marion resident Rocky Hett and the Harshman family has donated land and turkeys for the event.
Last year, a triple amputee J.D. Williams shot a turkey holding his bow with one hand and drawing the string back with his teeth.
Hett hasn’t shot a turkey in years. He likes to sit back and watch the action with binoculars.
“I was in the service during Vietnam,” Hett said. “Thinking about how we were treated back then, I just felt like reaching out to my brothers in arms.”
The area has always been good for hunting the birds. He said it has open areas where turkeys like to feed, and wooded areas where they tend to roost at night.
This year the group gathered for dinner Friday at Clover Cliff Ranch Bed and Breakfast in Elmdale, and started the hunt at 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning. Business owners Warren and Susie Harshman donated rooms and meals for the event.
One event organizer Fred Masters, vice president of the Flint Hills Gobblers, a nonprofit, and Wheelin’ Sportsman Coordinator in Emporia, said five of the six soldiers shot birds this year.
“Many of the guys who participate have post traumatic stress disorder,” Masters said. “Some told me it’s a good stress relief for them to be outdoors and get back to a state of normalcy.”
Masters said it was the first time hunting turkeys for three of the soldiers. One of the first-timers also “tagged out,” killing two birds and reaching the legal limit for the season.
Soldiers also participated in a trap-shoot and a long range shooting competition, during which they shot custom rifles.
“A customizer out of Kansas City provided 10 AR-15’s for us to play with,” Masters said. “We let the soldiers show us what the military trained them to do.”
Hitting a 600-yard target the most times, tank gunner Dave Sterling won long-range competition and was awarded a very lifelike turkey decoy.
Wounded Warriors United out of Manhattan recruited soldiers Andy Woods, John Rulong, Dan Johnson, Justin Johnson, Jason Kunze, and Sterling for the event.
Soldiers each received $500 of turkey hunting and fishing gear donated from multiple Kansas businesses as part of the event.
Guides were Burt Harshman, Andy Blaylock, Cameron LeManske, Gib Rhodes, David Williams, and Dave Waters.
After the hunt, they had lunch.
Listening to soldiers stories about their injuries was an “eye opener” for Masters. On solider told him that he was glad to be the one injured instead of one of his friends.
“They’re damn fine people,” Masters said. “My aches and pains don’t mean anything compared to what they have going on.”