Honoring our Nation’s Heroes
By Jeff Cummings, New York State Leadership Team
I think most RMEF members would agree that there is nothing finer than a morning spent hunting. But sharing it with a group of courageous soldiers who have put their lives on the line for our country makes it even better.
On Veterans Day 2010, several RMEF chapters—Niagara Frontier, Catskill Mountains, Finger Lakes, Central New York and Gouverneur—answered the call to help a group of New York waterfowl outfitters and guides put on the 2nd annual Veterans Waterfowl Hunt for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. A $500 RMEF state grant—which was matched by an anonymous member—helped supply shells and gear for the hunt, and committee volunteers donated game and prepared a luncheon for the vets.
Eighteen hunters from all across the country arrived the day before the event to attend a reception at the Days Inn in Batavia. That evening the Beverly family, a generous RMEF banquet donor, prepared a pasta dinner at a local church for the vets and volunteers, and one of the outfitters drew names dividing the hunters into four groups. Each group would be hunting in different field locations across western and central New York.
Excitement lit up the room during breakfast the next day, as everyone was ready for a morning of great New York waterfowl hunting. The groups headed out to the field at 4:30 a.m. to set up about 160 Canada goose decoys, 30 duck decoys and three Mojo decoys. The leaders then briefed the hunters on safety rules and how to use layout blinds. Some of the vets had never hunted waterfowl before.
The hunt was called at 10 a.m., and a number of hunters brought in several mallards and Canada geese. The groups then headed back for the RMEF-hosted luncheon at the North Star Sportsman’s Club in Hilton, which featured elk burgers, venison steaks, venison spiedie, Italian sausage kabobs, caribou chili, Cajun venison chili, green salad, salt potatoes, cookies and brownies.
After lunch veterans raised two ceremonial United States flags at North Star—one which flew over combat missions in Iraq and another which flew over 200 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Thank you RMEF volunteers for all the help and teamwork. And special thanks to the vets who attended the hunt. It was an honor to meet and share our passion with you.