May 1, 2010

Virginia vets have field day with former NASCAR driver

By Sgt. Andrew H. Owen
Virginia Guard Public Affairs

HALIFAX, Va. — American veterans took part in a day of fun and nature at The Cove in Halifax, Va., April 29 during the Ward Burton Wildlife Federation’s inaugural Wounded Hero Outdoor Event. The event aimed to serve all military service men/women who suffered major physical and/or emotional injuries while serving our country during training or combat.   

Wounded Hero event

Sgt. Dan Needham, a human resource sergeant in the 29th Infantry Division, Special Troops Battalion, is given instruction on loading the shotgun during the clay shooting activity at the Wounded Hero program presented by NASCAR driver Ward Burton in Halifax, Va. April 29, 2010. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) 

Click HERE to see more photos from this event.

Ward Burton, famous NASCAR driver and winner of the Daytona 500, personally hosted and participated in the event. The WBWF took advantage of the rehabilitative nature of the outdoors and support the wounded heroes with their healing process. The participants were treated to a variety of outdoor activities such as archery, fishing and clay shooting.

“The outdoors has given me so much of my life and I know that all of our veterans from past to current conflicts have given so much,” said Burton. “Peaceful places like this would not be possible without the hard work and … sacrifices they've all made and [I]just want to have a way to give back. I kinda felt like it was somewhat of a responsibility to say ‘thank you’ in using the outdoors and doing so.”

The approximately 50 veterans in attendance, who were from nearly every branch of service and served in conflicts dating as far back as World War II, broke up in three groups and spent a little over an hour at each activity. They were partnered with professionals in their respective fields that showed them the basics of fishing, clay shooting and archery and they were each then given the opportunity to do it on their own.

“Fishing is obviously an outdoor program, that's the kind of market we're looking for,” said Command Sgt. Major Michael “Doc” McGee, command sergeant major of Fort Pickett, and a professional fisherman who was on hand to assist the veterans. “One of the great things for Soldiers especially, and I keep using the term Soldiers, but it's for all our servicemen and women, is for them to reconnect with the outdoors … but the fishing and hunting seems to be able to help them reconnect, heal some wounds, save some souls, so to speak. Being able to get out and enjoy what God has blessed us with.”

Wounded Hero event

Veterans were afforded a day of shooting shotguns, archery and fishing at the Cove in Halifax, Va. The Wounded Hero program was presented by the Ward Burton Willdlife Foundation. (Photo by Sgt. Andrew H. Owen, Virginia Guard Public Affairs) 

Click HERE to see more photos from this event.

Burton and his organization have been partnering with the Virginia National Guard for some time now and had several members of the Virginia Guard at the event. They not only participated, but several others were there to spread the word about some of the programs that are available to the wounded warriors through the Guard.

Major General Robert B. Newman, Jr., Adjutant General of Virginia, and Col. Thom Morgan, director of manpower and personnel for the Virginia Guard, had been in communication with Burton for about a year. The discussed how they could partner the Guard with these types of events for American heroes and wounded veterans and how the Guard assets could be best used.

“We have a small cell here from our Joint Family Support Assistance Team and our transition assistant advisor is here today so they're taking back notes and we're trying to find out exactly how we can make this event not just a fun one, but one that is meaningful and helps veterans build networks for themselves to support each other after the event,” said Morgan.

Burton hopes to expand the program next year and would like to be able to include spouses and children of the veterans participating in the program to create a more family-oriented theme. He hopes to achieve this through support of the Guard and their existing family programs.

“I think that what Ward's trying to do here - the family and the youth aspect makes this a little different than some of the other Virginia Camps,” said Morgan. “It's here in Virginia. That makes it a great opportunity for Guardsmen and Airmen to come here and meet these other folks.”

“Ward has visions of it possibly being greater and taking advantage of these opportunities and we certainly want to be there for him and help him fill the gaps that he has in supporting the family in particular.”

The participants had fun at the event and it proved a good chance to meet other veterans who are facing, or may have been through, similar experiences as those faced by service members in war and discuss their stories in a relaxed environment.

“It was a blast. We had a lot of fun, got a little bit of sun burn. We've had just an absolutely great time,” said Capt. Jacob Goodine, Wounded Warrior Project Officer for the Virginia Guard. “Everybody here was really good at what they were doing and we got some good coaching pointers.

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