Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP) and the Wounded Warrior Project hosted a deer hunt Oct. 27 at Naval Support Facility Indian Head's Stump Neck Annex.
Six wounded warriors enjoyed a hearty lunch with the base's firefighters before heading out to the woods in search of antlers and venison. Unusually warm temperatures did not make for ideal hunting conditions, but months of preparation and planning by firefighters assigned to NSASP paid off.
The wounded warriors had various levels of prior hunting experience. Some enjoyed hunting regularly; others had not been able to enjoy the pursuit due to deployments and hospital time. For Sayngeun Phounamkha, a wounded Army veteran, the day was his first hunt. His motivation for trying out hunting was simple: he wanted to experience something new.
Being a novice, however, Phounamkha used some humor to manage his expectations for the day. "I know I've gone fishing before and haven't caught anything, so I hope this is not going to be like fishing," he said. "I don't know what things will look like out there; I just took my [hunter] safety class last week."
His guide for the day, firefighter and longtime hunter Bill Robey, shared one of his favorite spots for the hunt. The ground blind was situated close to the Potomac River, under a stand of mature oak trees bordered by thick brush. No matter how good the preparation, however, it is a rare hunt that goes exactly according to plan.
Phounamkha and Robey entered the blind and loaded the shotgun. Hours passed and no deer revealed themselves. Small talk about hunting and military life helped pass the time.
At roughly 5:30 in the evening, Robey's scouting paid a dividend. As the shadows grew longer, a doe walked into view. Phounamkha raised the shotgun and fired a perfect shot.
"I wasn't nervous before but now I am," he said. "I didn't think I was going to get a rush like that."
After hauling his prize out of the woods, Phounamkha and Robey made their way back to the fire house. There, they learned that two other wounded warriors in the hunting party had also taken deer.
Hunting stories were exchanged over food provided by NSF Indian Head firefighters. The deer were reported to the state deer check-in phone line and taken to a local butcher for processing, paid for by the Wounded Warrior Project.
"Thank you," said wounded warrior Ron Kellogg, who killed a seven-point buck during the hunt. "We really appreciate this."
For the guides and volunteers at Indian Head and Stump Neck who made the hunt possible, putting a smile on the wounded warriors' faces was more than enough satisfaction.
"I'm former military myself," said Capt. Bill Massey, firefighter assigned to NSF Dahlgren. "My son is now in the Marine Corps. I've always wanted to help with Wounded Warriors."
The memory of Vietnam veterans coming home weighed on Massey, who also serves his community as a volunteer firefighter. "Trying to make it different [this time] and recognize these veterans for what they have done and what they're doing... I've always wanted to do that. Anytime you can help somebody and make a difference, whether it's a smile or making their situation better, that's all I look for."
Massey was joined by several others who volunteered their time to guide and prepare for the hunt. Robey, lead firefighter Bill Crutchfield, firefighter John Price, Seth Berry, natural resources manager for NSF Indian Head, Jeff Bossart, NSASP environmental program director, and several others, including active duty military service members helped make the hunt possible.
Article by Naval Support Activity South Potomac Public Affairs