By ROB STORY
or the third consecutive year, Rocking R Ranch in Norwood hosted a weeklong, guided hunt for a Purple Heart recipient in partnership with the Wounded Warriors in Action foundation.
As Rocking R owner, Dan Reardon told the Telluride Daily Planet last year, “Wounded Warriors in Action is just a great foundation to get people to do all kinds of therapeutic outdoor adventures. (Hosting) is something that I definitely jumped at the opportunity to do. I feel like it’s the least that I can do in return.”
This year, from August 24-30, the beginning of archery season for hunters, Reardon led Crystal Masek on a bow-hunting excursion for mule deer.
Masek, a 40-year-old from Fulton, Mo. was badly wounded when a rocket propelled grenade struck her vehicle in Iraq. “I think WWIA is amazing. I’ve seen (this program) touch a lot of peoples’ lives. It makes them cry with happiness to be sent on an all-expenses-paid outdoors adventure.”
Said Reardon, “Harvesting a buck with archery equipment is a lot of fun. The bucks that we hunt during archery season spend their summers on the ranch as well as the bordering Forest Service high country. These deer are often still in velvet. We hunt deer during archery season from tree stands, blinds, as well as spot and stalk. Therefore, we are accustomed to using various tactics to find a good buck to go after with a bow.”
Masek journeyed directly from Norwood to South Dakota for more adventure. She was interviewed Wednesday while bow-hunting pronghorn antelope with her friend Kay, a Gold Star mother who lost her son in Afghanistan.
Masek described her days at Rocking R this way: “It’s cool because it’s real hunting. We worked hard, hunting from 5:30 in the morning till lunch, then again from 3:30 to 8 at night.
“We did a lot of stalking. We’d use the stand to see where the animals were, and then go hunt them.”
Bow-hunting is more difficult than using a gun, she said; though she herself did not take any animals last week, her team of four harvested a mule deer buck and a cow elk via arrow.
According to David Kelber, Mission Support Specialist for WWIA, “Although the hunt itself can be exciting, the main event on this trip is the opportunity to connect with the great outdoors, and to be welcomed by the local community. These world-class outdoor events help wounded veterans achieve a level of satisfaction and achievement that has often been missing from their lives.”
Last fall, Derek VanBuren, of Negaunee, Minn., stayed at the Rocking R for a week-long guided elk hunt. Said VanBuren, “The healing power of the outdoors, along with great camaraderie and working toward a goal together really sums up what the mission of Wounded Warriors in Action is all about. Being able to be in Colorado with these great people and participating together with them in this great event was absolutely amazing.”
Often, when Wounded Warriors return home, they can find that both their personal and professional lives have been impacted by their war experiences, Kelber said. “WWIA and hosts like Reardon strive to show these heroes that they can still experience and accomplish great things, no matter their current circumstances or challenges.”
“The challenge is good for (wounded veterans),” Masek said. “They like to have the challenge of hunting, and to see if they can actually do it. They also get to experience the camaraderie of working as a team again.”
The Wounded Warriors In Action foundation, based in Apollo Beach, Fla. is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to serving America’s combat-wounded Purple Heart recipients by providing outdoor sporting activities as a means to honor their sacrifice, encourage independence and promote healing. For more information, visit wwiaf.org.