Heli Hog Hunt returns to continue supporting veterans
WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) - What could bring veterans together faster than shooting hogs out of a helicopter?
That’s the question Big Country Veterans has set out to answer through their annual Helicopter Weekend, which is “designed to get veterans back into their element without the danger of real combat.” More importantly, the weekend presents an opportunity for healing and rapport amongst its participants, who may not have sought it out under less epic circumstances.
“It’s a good way to get with like-minded people who have been through similar experiences,” Air Force veteran Dustin Martin said.
Martin added that the military draws people from all walks of life, who ultimately have one thing in common: the comradery that comes through shared experience. The Heli Hog Hunt recreates that environment, allowing its participants to relax and open up to each other as they participate in various activities.
Helicopters are only the tip of the iceberg: Big Country Veterans has arranged for ax-throwing competitions to return after their popularity last year; there are also numerous weapons (including a cannon) available to shoot at the gun range, as well as various ranch tours from local guides.
If veterans or sponsors are nervous about participating, they’re usually drawn out by the competitive nature of the event.
“There’s always a little bit of competition with these guys when it comes to the Heli Hog Hunt,” Cody Palmer, Big Country Veterans executive director, said. “Every time we stop and take a break, we’re always kind of putting numbers up there of what we’ve gotten to so far.”
The hunt has a positive environmental impact as well. Wild pigs have been listed as one of the worst invasive species in the world according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, carrying disease and causing physical damage to natural resources and property. The Veterans Helicopter Weekend uses one of the most effective ways to control wild pig populations while supporting a good cause.
“Being able to combine that with the healing process of veterans, along with helping local farmers and ranchers out with that problem, to me it’s just a win all around, and something that we just really take pride in,” Palmer said.
For volunteers currently serving in the military, Veterans Helicopter Weekend was a chance to listen, learn and give back -- all with a chance of getting to hitch a ride on a helicopter. Tony Faudoa and Zachary Saitta started working with Big Country Veterans during last year’s hunt, and returned to continue making memories with the group.
“Being able to be a part of the process of helping make these memories, that almost therapeutic experience that a lot of these veterans are getting to experience over the course of these next four days... that is truly one of the biggest takeaways for me,” Faudoa said.
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