“God’s country…” that is how event organizer, David Presley, described Craig Wilson’s Wilson Whitetail & Wings Shooting Ranch – the location of the first Boot Campaign Hero Ambassador retreat. 16 veterans met in Pearsall, Texas to hunt, shoot and bond over four days. Beyond their common service, they all shared a love and support for the Boot Campaign and the great work the organization does for their brothers and sisters-in-arms.
Put together through support from John and Pam Hughes, David Presley and using the exquisite ranch owned by Craig Wilson, these warriors were treated to hunting exotic animals such as Black Bucks, Oryx and Axis Deer. In addition to the hunts, Craig’s staff and family put together amazing meals, and everyone involved truly demonstrated the meaning of Texas hospitality. As Zachary Bell, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran with multiple combat deployments to Afghanistan, put it, “I have seen and met many people in my lifetime and even more since leaving active duty. But I have never met people as genuine and authentic as John and Pam Hughes and the entire Wilson Whitetail family and staff. Everyone there was so kind and giving that it made me want to reenlist and this time I would know that I am doing it for truly amazing Americans.”
The purpose of this event was not only to get the 16 veterans out to the south Texas countryside. There was work to be done. These warriors are all Hero Ambassadors for Boot Campaign, and were on a mission to learn more about how they can help spread the word, share their stories and become a greater part of the organization. Led by Boot Campaign staff and executive coach / long-time Boot Campaign Ambassador Bill Hart, the team of Hero Ambassadors learned the skills needed to tell their stories in a productive manner, and share more about the Boot Campaign mission. Michael Hardgrove, a U.S. Army National Guardsman and veteran of multiple deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan found the training especially useful, stating:
I learned a lot from Bill Hart and figuring out one’s whole story then being able to take pieces from the whole story to use. I feel through our sharing together in a safe and comfortable environment as well as the training that we received, that my ability to talk more about my story and the story of the Boot Campaign significantly increased.
All told, the retreat had more successes than could be quantified. The warriors, many of whom sustained serious injuries in service, adapted to new activities (including the teamwork that succeeded in getting a blinded EOD Tech to final hunt for the first time), had amazing new experiences with old and new friends alike and were given the opportunity to once again experience the bond shared in service to the nation. Or, as Zachary Bell said, “It is really hard to bond with others outside of the military and that is why it is good to have moments like these where you can experience the same level of camaraderie you have in the military.”