Disabled veteran finds peace in the woods

The Columbus Dispatch on Sunday published an inspiring story about a veteran who isn't about to let a double amputation get in the way of his love for the outdoors.

The story begins like this:

    Here comes the deer, wandering through the woods of Morgan County, his slow steps cracking twigs and leaves.

    The man leans forward in the wheelchair and watches the young buck down in the gully.

    The deer stops 30 yards in front of him.

    The man’s heart thumps. He raises the rifle and looks through the scope.

    The deer looks directly at him.

    There is one bullet in the man’s .50-caliber Hawken muzzleloader.

    All you need, hunters say, is one shot.

    In life, however, you sometimes need more.

Click on the "Read More..." link below for more.

After a flashback to his preparations for the hunt, the story continues:

    His wife, Royetta — Roy to everyone — fixes breakfast in their dimly lit 40-year-old trailer in Waterford, on the banks of the Muskingum River.

    She had gone out two months earlier to buy beer on a hot August day and saw an advertising flier on the counter of the corner store in nearby Beverly.

    The Ohio 4 th annual Wheelin’ Sportsmen Ultimate Team-Up hunt would be held up the road in McConnelsville, about 75 miles southeast of Columbus.

    She had never heard of an event for disabled hunters. She took the flier home, gave it to Jim and told him to read it.

    He hasn’t been hunting in 13 months, since his legs were amputated just below the hips because of artery disease.

    Now it’s 8 a.m. on the event’s first day, and Jim fidgets in his wheelchair.

    He turns and looks at the calendar on the trailer’s woodpaneled wall.

    ‘‘Today is Veterans Day," says Jim, wearing a red 3 rd Marine Division hat. ‘‘I forgot all about that. That’s something else, too."

This story is touching not just because it details a disabled hunter's return to the field, but because of the individual story of how this Vietnam veteran's entire life has been shaped by his experience in combat, and how his new experience with hunting along-side other disabled sportsmen is contributing to a healing process that began for Jim at a Veterans Affairs meeting in the late 1980's.

Jim didn't see a deer on this day, but the story (which is available to Dispatch subscribers here) proves this was indeed a successful day in the woods:

    Jim is back at the armory, without a deer, but smiling anyway as the event draws to a close.

    "These have been the best days of my life," he says. "Mostly because it’s the first time I’ve been able to associate with a bunch of people like this. Before, even if I had been here, I wouldn’t have talked to anybody or, if they tried to talk to me, I’d moved away. But I’ve enjoyed talking to these people."

    Mike Francis, the Marine, walks over to Jim, just as he did that first morning.

    "Have any luck today, Jim?"


    "Don’t feel bad. Neither did I. Think you’ll come back next year?"

    "Yes, sir."

    "Well, I’ll see you again.

    Semper Fi, Mac."

    "Semper Fi."

Related Story:
Cheers to the NWTF: "Handicapped hunters track deer on special weekend"

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