Weatherford Democrat

April 9, 2012

Wounded vets given chance to hunt

Chris Agee

PARKER COUNTY — Less than two months after non-profit organization Brazos River Wounded Warriors Outdoors held an event in support of injured soldiers, another local group is planning a three-day outing for 25 wounded military members.

Retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Dana L. Bowman, president and CEO of HALO for Freedom Warrior Foundation, recently announced plans for a hog hunt to be held in and around Mineral Wells beginning Thursday evening.

The event is not a fundraiser, he said, but a chance to give back to the invited guests — each with significant injuries sustained during their military service.

The event will be based at the National Vietnam War Memorial Museum, in far west Parker County on U.S. Highway 180.

Bowman said this is not the first hog hunt he has helped organize in honor of wounded soldiers. Three years ago, he said, he held a smaller hunt in Weatherford, with 10 invited soldiers, but has since used his HALO Foundation to plan a more established event he expects to translate into an annual hunt.

As a member of the Army’s parachute team, Bowman lost both legs during a midair collision with a teammate during a 1994 practice jump. Since then, he has continued to jump from aircraft as well as becoming an inspirational speaker and advocate for injured soldiers.

Working in conjunction with the museum and AmVets, Bowman said the wounded warriors will enjoy a weekend that will appeal to all senses.

Plans call for Bowman to kick off the event with a parachute jump alongside an oversized American flag, with the probability of another soldier also making a jump.

There will be an air show featuring 11 World War II planes and, following their demonstration, three will remain to perform an aerobatics display.

Several helicopters, manned by SWAT team members, will then fly over the crowd, firing machine guns into a hill on the south side of the museum, and the exhibition will end with a gyrocopter flight.

Bowman said the public is invited and encouraged to be a part of this opening ceremony, which will begin at 9 a.m. Thursday, as well as a farewell reception Saturday at 9:30 p.m.

He noted locals are also invited to come to the museum throughout the event to mingle with the soldiers and take part in some of the activities. With the exception of the hunts themselves, he said the event will be open to anyone wishing to attend.

Following the aircraft displays, teams of invited soldiers, along with hunting guides and guests, will form and fly to one of two area ranches to begin their first hog hunt.

Whether on the 50,000-acre 101 Ranch or the 11,000-acre Rhodes Ranch, Bowman said he wants each wounded warrior to be able to kill a hog up close, with a knife, and by shooting from the helicopter.

Any game not consumed during the event will be donated to local charitable organizations, Bowman said.

AmVets Post 133 Commander Jim Vines said he is excited to team up with Bowman and the museum to host this event, noting there are numerous special guests in addition to the 25 guests of honor.

Officials from numerous businesses and organizations are scheduled to appear, including Caterpillar, which will provide two pieces of heavy equipment, giving soldiers an opportunity to operate the machinery.

The soldiers, including recent Congressional Medal of Honor recipient Army Ranger Sgt. Leroy Petry, will have numerous opportunities to hunt Friday and Saturday.

While Bowman thanked the volunteers and partners who are making the event possible, he said his non-profit organization is accepting donations at the First Financial Bank branch in Weatherford.

Anyone interested in making a tax-deductible donation is asked to make the check out to the HALO For Freedom Warrior Foundation and send it to First Financial Bank, P.O. Box 259, Weatherford, TX 76086