Program included skeet, trap shooting, pheasant hunt
By Terry Duffy
In recognition of Veterans Day, on Saturday, Oct. 20, the Fin-Feather-Fur Conservation Society in Lewiston (3F Club) played host to a small group representing the country's recent past heroes of conflict.
3F Club member Dale Shank organized the event with a number of 3F volunteer veterans. It served as an opportunity for three visiting disabled veterans, accompanied by their active-duty Navy counselor and a staffer, to further a continuing transition back to normal life through experiences on the Swann Road shooting and hunting fields.
Founded in 2007, the Honored American Veterans Afield program (HAVA) is a nonprofit organization headquartered in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. Its purpose is to help in the healing and re-integration process of disabled veterans and injured active military members back into normal life through participation in outdoor events.
HAVA stated that, as numbers of men and women returning from the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan grew, so did the need to help them with the challenges of transition. HAVA's ultimate goal is to assist these disabled veterans, through rebuilding their confidence and providing hope for the future, by means of reconnecting with activities the veterans enjoyed in the past.
For many, it's the American traditions of hunting and firearms.
"The HAVA mission is the creation of a small organization of volunteers from the outdoor sports industry to facilitate a series of hunting and shooting activities for groups of disabled veterans, wherein personal attention of the sponsors and facility operators contributes to the veteran's sense of joy and accomplishment, and permanent awareness that marvelous things are possible despite disabling injuries," the group stated.
3F member Dale Shank, who organized the HAVA event, addressed the visiting veterans, as a group of 3F volunteers looked on.
The event included a day of firearms instruction, skeet and trap shooting, followed by a dog-guided pheasant hunt for the disabled vets. 3F Club President Jim Perri said the program succeeded by allowing the visiting vets to "increase their confidence by reconnecting them with their love of hunting and shooting."
"This provided disabled veterans returning from the battlefields the opportunity to transition back into normal life," Perri said.
Following morning programs on firearms safety and familiarization with the various rifles to be used that day, visiting HAVA members headed to the 3F fields for team shooting exercises in skeet and trap followed by dog training/tracking demos and a pheasant hunt involving two teams.
"Our agenda allowed them to participate in skeet and trap shooting and also a guided pheasant hunt," Perri said.
Despite the challenging weather that day, which included heavy rains, the visiting vets were able to participate in all programs, including the pheasant hunt. Perri said the group was able to bag 15 birds during the pheasant hunt - birds that were donated by the Blue Ribbon Farm in Batavia.
The day ended with a dinner, compliments of the staff at The Brickyard Pub & B.B.Q. of Lewiston.
All came away with a deeper appreciation for that re-acquaintance with firearms and the shooting sports.
"Thanks to all the volunteers who participated, many being veterans themselves, without whom we couldn't have provided this activity," Perri said.
Shooting exercises on the 3F skeet and trap ranges. (Photos by Jeff Stevens and Terry Duffy)