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Wounded veterans get hunting with Missouri Air Guard

ST. JOSEPH, MO. -- Missouri Air National Guard members from the 139th Airlift Wing helped take several Purple Heart Medal veterans hunting Nov. 17 and helped collect thousands in donations for a program that supports them.

Wounded Warriors in Action is an outdoor program for Purple Heart Medal recipients in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. It focuses on hunting and fishing to connect combat veterans with the healing powers of the outdoors.

Guard members here volunteered to take Army and Marine Corps veterans from seven states deer hunting in the Missouri woods.

"The event went extremely well," said Brig. Gen. Stephen Cotter, assistant adjutant general for Air, Missouri National Guard in an email message.

He added that the wounded warrior he and Tech. Sgt. Nate Nichols from the 139th Airlift Wing took deer hunting, Jeremy Smith, scored "a nice 11 point buck that weighed 156 lbs."

"He has been deer hunting for 12 years and never bagged a buck, but he has now," said Cotter. "He now also holds the program's record."

Program Director John McDaniel received two checks during an icebreaker Nov.16 for roughly $4,000 in donations. The money was raised during the Air National Guard's National Softball Tournament in St. Joseph this summer and from 139th Airlift Wing Chiefs' Association who contributed $800.

The next morning, the veterans hunted duck at the Squaw Creek Refuge, and the Chiefs then transported them from the Napier Hunting Club to awaiting hunting guides at different locations.

"It's a humbling experience," said Chief Master Sgt. Robert Shalz who took Army veteran Shane Lowery from Fort Hood, Texas, out hunting on his land east of St. Joseph. "It was an honor to take them out, hear their stories and see how appreciative they are doing something like this."

The Chiefs' Association plans to support the event again.