Warm weather Sunday and a lack of birds made for poor hunting, but that did not seem to bother the participants.
The second annual Veteran’s Day waterfowl hunt at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge had 20 veterans take part, a sizable increase over last year’s inaugural event. Most were first-time hunters.
The event was put on by The Fallen Outdoors, Washington Waterfowl Association and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
“The birds have not come down yet, so the harvest was slow, but the comradery was fantastic for all the veterans,” said Brent Lawrence, a public affairs officer for the USFSW.
“While it wasn’t conducive for duck hunting, it was for talking,” he said. “The veterans got to know each other and talked about some of the issues that were weighting on their minds.”
Justin Boardman of The Fallen Outdoors, a 14-year veteran of the Green Berets, gave an eloquent speech during the pre-hunt dinner on Saturday, highlighting the alarmingly high suicide rate for veterans.
According to Boardman, this hunt is part of a larger effort to help members of the military cope with their experiences, help them reintegrate back into civilian life, and help them navigate the stresses of military life.
“We at The Fallen Outdoors facilitate hunting and fishing trips for active and retired military veterans of all branches,” Boardman said. “Because, at the end of the day, being in the country is therapeutic for everyone.”
The event was attended by State Sen. Lynda Wilson, R-Vancouver, who also donated the food and venue for the pre-hunt dinner.
The Fallen Outdoors is already planning next year’s hunt. The group is always looking for veterans and volunteers to get involved in the program.