Honor and Remember our Heroes on Memorial DayPosted on: May 24, 2019 By: FHMD
Hunting on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is without question one of my favorite outdoor activities, but there’s one hunt I recall a few years ago that was far more memorable than most. One of the hunters in our party was a Marine who had been severely injured while serving in Iraq. I first met Lt. Andrew Kinard while visiting Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. I had no idea how that visit would change my focus and mission in life.
Andrew arrived at the farm just before noon on the day of the hunt. I recruited some help – my dad, brothers and a few others who were anxious to meet Andrew. I made certain they knew there may be lifting involved, retrieving required and general assistance as necessary. You see, Andrew lost both legs to an improvised explosive device (IED) while leading his platoon on a foot patrol. There would be challenges getting Andrew where we needed to hunt. We strategically placed Andrew’s wheelchair on a spot we hoped would produce the most action.
Andrew bagged his limit of doves that day. He indicated it was the best dove hunt he remembers, but the bag limit was not what was most important to Andrew. It was his ability to enjoy hunting as he knew it before his injury, requiring more than 60 surgeries over a two-year span.
I’ve had the honor of coordinating a variety of hunting and fishing trips for our wounded war heroes returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as veterans from previous conflicts. What drives me to do this? When a wounded soldier confided that for the first time since his injury he hasn’t had to take his anxiety meds or another, suffering from a traumatic brain injury, felt like the opportunity to hunt and fish was a turning point in his recovery.
Perhaps you know a veteran who could use some nudging from a friend or relative to get outdoors for some hunting or fishing. With 75 Maryland State Parks, public lands, state forests and wildlife management areas, there is abundant access to countless opportunities to explore. The Wounded Warrior and Veteran Outreach Program is a wonderful way to get our heroes back outdoors, offering fee waivers to veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
Each day I spend afield enjoying Maryland’s outdoor pursuits, I give pause to remember loved ones who’ve proudly served our country, and made sacrifices for the freedoms we enjoy today. For me, it’s my grandfather and father, both of whom were laid to rest with military honors. They inspired my love of fishing, hunting and the outdoors. They seldom talked about their respective service –World War II and stateside during the Vietnam era. They forever remain my heroes and American soldiers.
This post was written by Ranger Christina Holden. She has worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Park Service for more than 16 years in Public Relations, Marketing, Volunteer & Citizen Advocacy. She is a Park Ranger at Pocomoke River State Park in Snow Hill on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Images courtesy of the author.