Hunting with Heroes Wyoming provides outdoor experiences for disabled veterans
for The Fence Post
People in the military pursue victory regardless of challenges or obstacles. This is how heroes are made.
Casper, Wyo., native Dan Currah is a retired Army veteran, OCS Distinguished Graduate, who was commissioned in 1967 and served in Vietnam 1968-1969. Now 72 years old, he and wife Nelda had been spending winters in Texas where he enjoyed reading the Casper (Wyoming) Star-Tribune online to keep up with hometown happenings.
So it was in late December 2012 when he noted an article about Colton Sasser, a disabled veteran but from a much more recent conflict. The young man had been visiting his family back in Wyoming while he was recuperating at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas.
The article continued that Sasser, age 20, had lost a leg when his military vehicle hit an IUD on April 15, 2012. Currah realized he and Nelda knew the Sasser family including Colton’s father Steve, Dan’s old high school classmate.
Currah called Steve and learned that Colton had weekends off, so he arranged to meet him for lunch back in San Antonio. The two men found they had a lot in common, including a propensity for hunting, Currah for 50-plus years and Sasser for more than 10. Good reason to get together for more than lunch.
A couple hog hunts followed. Sasser mentioned he’d met other disabled vets at Brooke Medical Center who might like to go along; after all, they talked about hunting all the time.
Plus, the state of Wyoming had just begun a program in 2012 to donate big game hunting licenses for re-issuance to disabled veterans. Things began coming together for the two vets’ expanding idea.
Currah and Sasser quickly founded a nonprofit group, Hunting With Heroes Wyoming (HwH WY). The process for acquiring its 501(c)(3) status accelerated with help from U.S. Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming.
In 2013, their initial year, the organization conducted 13 hunts, generating an ambitious 2014 goal of expanding to 20. Intense interest boosted that number to 59, with more than 100 in 2015. Currah noted that HwH WY recently completed its seventh year with an approximate 1,300 hunts total.
The group’s mission statement is “to give back to our nation’s disabled veterans by honoring them with unique hunting, fishing and other outdoor experiences.”
Current statistics on their website put the number of veterans living in the United States at more than 21 million. In excess of 900,000 of them are disabled at a 70 percent or greater rate. There’s obviously an ongoing need for recreational opportunities for these brave men and women.
Although all hunts are held in Wyoming, HwH WY has hosted disabled veterans from all 50 states, representing past service in conflicts from WWII to Afghanistan; the youngest was 21, the oldest 95.
Bobby Boyd, Cheyenne chapter chair for HwH WY, said that most of the participants are seasoned hunters but nevertheless screened in advance for any possible restrictions.
“We can accommodate wheelchair-bound, visually impaired, and just about every disability on the books,” he noted.
Additionally, HwH WY covers all expenses with the exception of travel to the location. Hunting licenses are donated, room and board is covered through fundraisers that include an annual golf tournament and banquet. Hunts are conducted on privately owned ranches; more locations are always welcomed.
Boyd described his Cheyenne chapter as comprised of disabled vets, family, and anyone who wants to support the group’s mission. Members help with fundraising, the banquet, hunts, and/or anything else needed to support the vets.
Robert Walls is a Grand Junction, Colo., veteran who served two tours of duty in Iraq. In October 2019, he went on his first HwH WY trip.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” he admitted. “I don’t usually like new situations.”
But Walls was quickly assured he’d made the right choice attending the hunt.
“All your nerves go away in about 5 minutes,” he said. “It’s a chance to get away from technology. And, you get a new little family.”
He so much enjoyed the experience that he’s looking into attending a guiding school. Although most HwH WY guides are volunteers, some are formally trained. Walls admits to already being an almost full-time volunteer with other organizations.
As a member of the international disaster response organization “Team Rubicon” (75 percent of its volunteers are military veterans from across the U.S.), Walls removes mold from houses and rebuilds damaged/destroyed structures. He worked storm events including Hurricanes Harvey, Dorian and Irma, and the bomb cyclone destruction from Nebraska to the Dakotas.
Since May 2019, Walls has only spent three weeks in Colorado. For him, it’s still all about service to country and those in need. Again, the stuff from which heroes are made.
It was through another military volunteer group, “Team Red, White and Blue.” that Walls discovered HwH WY. Its Cheyenne chapter co-chair, Jared Mitchell, was attending the same event and invited Walls to a hunt. He now intends to lead other vets on future hunts.
Most certainly, HwH WY is focused on finding and bringing down live quarry — primarily antelope, deer and elk. But camaraderie largely factors into the greater hunting experience. Boyd, also a disabled vet, easily linked the two factors.
“I got involved with Hunting With Heroes Wyoming because of my passion for hunting and helping other like-minded vets out there. We make new, lifetime friends every year.”
HwH WY currently has eight local chapters, with two more in the works.
Those wishing to learn more about Hunting With Heroes Wyoming, participating in a hunt, volunteering, donating a hunting license, or ranch owners who’d like to host a hunt, are encouraged to contact: Bobby Boyd, (307) 220-0745, email@example.com; Jared Mitchell, (307) 365-7004, firstname.lastname@example.org; Dan Currah, (307) 258-5880, email@example.com. ❖
— Metzger is a freelance writer from Fort Collins, Colo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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From June through September, John Etchart spends most of the day driving a tractor through hayfields below the mountains near Meeker in northwestern Colorado.