By Sgt. Noshoba Davis, LANG Public Affairs Office
PINEVILLE, La. – The Louisiana National Guard teamed up with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Hunters Enriching Lives of People (HELP) and the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA) to host the third annual deer hunt weekend for disabled veterans at the Camp Beauregard Wildlife Management Area near Pineville, Nov. 11-13.
The hunt is held on Veteran’s Day each year and had 14 participants this year. Each hunter is allowed to bring a guest to help them or sit with them while they hunt. If a hunter doesn’t have someone, one of the volunteers will join them.
According to Carl Chance, the vice chairman of HELP, the hunt gives veterans, who may not have an opportunity otherwise, a chance to get back outdoors, see old friends or make new ones.
“It’s our way of giving back,” said Chance. “We just want to thank them for their service. We get as much out these hunts, if not more than they do.”
“Being a veteran is a blessing; it means you wake up and look at yourself in the morning every morning and say I went there and I came back. Some of us not whole, but we still came back,” said Eric Broussard, one of the hunters and former LANG member.
The weekend gives veterans the opportunity to gain new friends and memories and share stories. Volunteers at the event also get an opportunity to show appreciation to the veterans for their service. The organizations hope the hunt will continue to grow, so that more veterans can benefit from it.
“We want to honor our vets,” said C.R. Newland, a wildlife management area manager with LDWF. “It’s a way for us to help people that may not get to go otherwise.”
Joshua Droddy, of Pitkin, and a former LANG sergeant in A Company, 3rd Battalion, 156th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, was one of the hunters participating in the event. Droddy deployed to Iraq in 2004-2005, where he and his team drove patrols for 16 hours a day.
“I wanted a challenge, so that’s why I joined the infantry. I knew they were on the frontline and they were the guys where all the action was at,” said Droddy. “I don’t know the exact reason why I joined. I just know that I wanted to serve my country.”
Droddy and his service dog, Grunt, drove from Colorado Springs, Colo., where they now live, to participate in the hunt. He said that he had never hunted deer as a kid because he didn’t have the patience for it, but that after going on his first deer hunt four years ago, he became addicted to it.
“I drove in for this hunt because it was the only time this year I would get to hunt and see three of the guys I deployed with,” said Droddy. “We all have PTSD, and we all have different reactions to what happened with different outcomes. Getting together on hunts like this gives us a chance to talk about it and see everybody. It’s something we look forward to.”
The LDWF works closely with LANG range control to coordinate the location of the hunt, set up hunting blinds, transport the hunters to and from hunting sites and house the hunters. HELP provides necessary equipment, such as attachments to steady a rifle, to make hunting easier for veterans that are disabled.
“There’s so much knowledge to pass around anytime you get to come out and just sit with other hunters, especially people like the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries,” said Droddy. “For most of these hunters, this is their first time hunting, so they are happy to just watch the sun come up and go down. Killing a deer is just a side note; it’s about coming out here and reconnecting with nature.”
The CVMA provided meals for the hunters and volunteers throughout the weekend, which allowed the group to socialize with other former service members.
“Our motto is ‘Vets helping Vets’. That’s what the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association is all about, and this event is just one more way that we can give back to the ones who gave before us,” said Master Sgt. Gregory Carbo, who is a member of the CVMA and an operations non-commissioned-officer-in-charge in the LANG.
“Veteran’s Day is always a special day for our veteran’s. It’s about remembering the friends, the Soldiers and brothers that we lost; from the ones we didn’t know to those we knew and helped bury,” said Barry Guidry, a retired Army major who has participated in the hunt all three years. “It doesn’t matter if it’s Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day it still means the same to each and every one of us.”
If you wish to participate next year, please contact the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries for more information.