Published on October 3, 2007 By pseudosoldier In Work
I got an email from Wes Higgins, who was my point of contact for coordinating the color guard for the roping event, and he let me know that they made about $22,000 for the Wounded Warrior Program. He also forwarded a story, a description of one of the great trips that they take injured veterans on. I'm reproducing it here without really knowing the author, so if they contact me to ask me to take it down, I will. I just thought that it was a great thing to share.

It was the evening of September 21st on the NX Bar Ranch near Sheridan, Wyoming. I had been in the Dodge pickup since 7 am and it was now a little after 7 pm. Our hunting guide, Brian MacCarty, and Joe Kapacziewski had been stalking a 6X6 bull elk for most of the afternoon. Richard Price, director of the Chase Foundation was with Brian and Joe, trying to film as much of the stalk as possible.

I was driving a second vehicle, riding with Robert Leonard from Roswell, New Mexico. Brian, Joe and Ritchie had left their truck and gone on foot to top a ridge and try to get Joe a shot. After two hours, they returned, as the bull had left his cows and moved down a draw. Brian, who has been on the ranch all of his life, knew there was an excellent chance to make a short drive and find the bull again. Robert and I followed and as we made a turn to the north, Brian’s truck stopped and Robert said “Joe is going to shoot!”

Joe set his shooting sticks, steadied the rifle and fired. He jumped a foot off the ground as Brian and Ritchie joined to congratulate him. I am not a big fan of the “high five”, but if there is a place, this was it. Hugs for everyone!

Robert was so excited and, saying “He got him, he got him” and smiling ear to ear. I am not a hunter, as my friends all know, but this was different and this was special. Joe is a ranger who has served five tours in the “war” in both Afghanistan and Iraq. He plans to return in January 2008. The smiles and tears were generated by joy. You see, Joe, Robert and four other soldiers are members of the “Wounded Warriors” and were special guests of Mack and Robert Chase, owners of the NX Bar Ranch.

These six soldiers, Joe (lost leg in ’05), Robert (lost leg in ’05), Christian (lost both legs), Brad (lost arm, badly burned), Steve (lost both legs), and Kevin (lost both legs) were all severely wounded in Iraq and are working to rehab and rejoin society,

I will never forget meeting the plane, Mr. Chase’s Falcon 2000, at the Sheridan airport. As we waited for the cabin door to open, none of us on the tarmac were prepared. The first three young men down the steps had lost both legs. It was stunning. As they continued toward us, I was struck by their ability to move their prosthetics. And there were the smiles, the firm handshakes as they introduced themselves – they were kids. They are kids!

The range of emotions was incredible for those who met the soldiers and that would include all of the airport personnel as well.

The hunt was successful in every respect. All of the soldiers got trophy elks, thanks to a great piece of land, guides and weather. And the ranch’s staff loved working for these young men whose lives are changed forever.

There were about twenty other guests, which included Jim Bob and Stork, who filmed much of what went on. This will be edited and produced for television, airing the 2nd quarter of 2008.

The stories told by these kids were powerful. The bond they hold for each other is like nothing I have ever witnessed. This is why they all want to go back. As Joe said, “I left buddies there; I have to go back!”

I thanked them for their service and their sacrifice – and for giving me an opportunity to feel real pride, real horror and real joy.

I have never experienced anything like it and I hope you have the opportunity to meet and talk to one of these soldiers. The bad news is that the odds are pretty good and getting better. Whatever people’s politics, these wounded soldiers will alter your life.

As Steve’s t-shirt said “Limping ain’t easy!”

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