The effects of war can manifest in a variety of ways in those who have served on the front lines, among them physically and mentally.
Too, there are myriad ways for veterans to cope with those effects, from the unsavory methods to hospitals, counseling, a strong support network and the great outdoors.
Helping veterans heal is the mission of several organizations throughout the country, among them the Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (ORHF), which seeks “to provide healing opportunities to veterans, troops, and their families through hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.”
ORHF was founded in 2001 by the Paralyzed Veterans of America, with program’s website stating, “The organization sought to help wounded veterans venture into the outdoors after receiving medical care for serious injuries.”
ORHF became its own entity in late 2012 and last year served approximately 375 troops.
For the last several years, ORHF has run a program in Archuleta County and, by all accounts, the local iteration of the program has been nothing but successful.
In Archuleta County, the program’s veterans are treated to a private-land hunt on the 19,000-acre Square Top Ranch, which was purchased by ORHF Chairman Matt Cook in the spring of 2013.
Cook’s plan for the ranch was threefold — family enjoyment, conservation and to allow veterans to hunt the property. Veterans have hunted the property every year since Cook purchased it.
“It’s an unbelievable opportunity to be able to share this land with these people that have given so much to their country,” Cook said after the inaugural ORHF event on the property, adding, “It’s my way of feeling patriotic; I didn’t serve.”
Cook attended the first three days of this year’s hunt.
This year’s hunt started with a bang on Oct. 19 — literally — as veteran J.B. Kerns landed his elk on the first day.
Kerns, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for four years and completed three tours of duty in Afghanistan, is a triple amputee who grew up hunting in Virginia, but who had never hunted elk before.
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