- - Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Visit a gun range, attend a competitive shoot, take to the field during the hunting season or attend a gun show and you’ll run into veterans of the military enjoying their day as recreational shooters, hunters and gun collectors.

Those of us who are ourselves vets and have worked with other veterans over the years appreciate more than most just how much our veterans enjoy the shooting sports.

Wounded veterans especially seem to truly enjoy various shooting sports programs across the country. The first annual Wounded Veteran Marksmanship Competition was held in 2011, and today this and similar programs and events serve veterans and their families by providing them with a weekend of fun, where they get to experience the camaraderie that many of them miss after they leave the service.

Disabled veterans often find themselves surrounded in a civilian world that simply doesn’t understand who they are, where they have been and things they are still dealing with stemming from their service. Providing them with a laid-back, comfortable environment surrounded by others who have had similar experiences has a profoundly positive effect.

The same goes for their spouses and loved ones, who can be overlooked as the strongest source of support for disabled veterans. Families make sacrifices together, and the spouses deserve recognition and appreciation when it comes to sacrifices they make supporting their loved ones as they face the challenges of disability. They too have unique experiences that few others understand, and it is important to us to provide them with fun activities to help them connect with others facing the same challenges.

As testimony to the enjoyment our veterans derive from hunting and shooting one need look no further than a recent shoot organized in Montana by NEMO Arms for three brave men wounded in Benghazi as terrorists assaulted our US State Department Special Mission Compound there and killed our ambassador in September 2012.

The shoot gave residents of the area a great opportunity to meet, target shoot and socialize with Mark “Oz” Geist, Kris “Tanto” Paronto and John “Tig” Tiegen. Similar events events and programs are being held throughout the United States to honor our vets and to enjoy the shooting sports with them. Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., in partnership with the Civilian Marksmanship Program (CMP) honored Bartlesville, Okla., resident, First Sgt. Bob Hunley for his service both to our country and his community. The CMP was originally created by Congress at the behest of President Teddy Roosevelt as part of the United States Army. It was later spun off and reconstituted as a national organization dedicated to training and educating U. S. citizens in responsible uses of firearms and air guns through gun safety training,marksmanship training, and youth air rifle competitions.

In 2009, the CMP launched The Patriot Award program to pay tribute to our nations’ veterans by sharing the lessons of their courage and sacrifice with young people across the country. The program honors a selected district veteran who has demonstrated valor in military service and a continued dedication to his or her fellow Americans after returning home. By honoring a “hometown hero,” like Hunley, the CMP hopes to demonstrate to the next generation that the ideals of previous generations can be found in their very neighborhoods.

Mr. Hunley served our country in the U.S. Army for 21 years, completing tours in Vietnam, Germany and Korea. After he retired from the Army in 1991 he began raising funds and awareness for numerous Vietnam veterans’ organizations throughout the country. Most recently he has been recognized for his work in Bartlesville, where each year he creates the “Street of Honor” by placing 180 military flags on display along his neighborhood street during the days and weeks leading up to Memorial Day, the Fourth of July and Veteran’s Day His mission, as he sees it, is to grow these programs and events nationwide for our veterans and their families. They involve two components: a competition circuit and club shooting activities.

These are but two examples of the sorts of events going on around the country today to both honor the men and women ho sacrifice so much for their country and to provide them an opportunity to engage in the activities they enjoy so much.

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