For some veterans gravely wounded in battle, going back out into the field with gun in hand is just the kind of therapy they need to heal.
A number of nonprofits offer free hunting trips for veterans, but Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families focuses on taking former servicemen and servicemen out with their families, so the outing is a bonding and healing experience for everyone involved.
"They get there with a group of guys they don’t even know,” Danny SantAngelo, founder of Sportmen’s Foundation for Military Families, told NBC of what happens when groups of vets go hunting together. “They go to drinking while on medications…But those trips have nothing to do with their families. And what do they really get out of that? They go home and have all the same problems.”
SantAngelo’s program is different because he, and his wife, guide families that are trying to reconnect after long deployments and they create an environment in the woods for them to do so. They extend their free program to both vets that have been injured and those that came home unharmed.
The nonprofit’s founder realized how important it was to get the entire family involved in his expeditions while he was talking to a veteran out in the woods while hunting in the rain, SantAngelo said in a promotional video. He asked the vet who his hero was and without hesitation, the former serviceman named his wife.
“The moms and the grandmas and the kids and the support back home are really, really a big part of military heroes today,” SantAngelo said.
In addition to getting veterans to reunite with their families in a meaningful way, it also gives them a chance to show their kids how much they’re still capable of doing.
Iraq War veteran John Bennett, 41, became paralyzed after a sniper shot him in 2005. While Bennett has gone on a number of free hunting trips, he told NBC that going out with family members is just a more meaningful experience.
“It’s really neat to be able to include your family, especially your kids,” Bennett said, “so they can see that dad can get out there and still do the things he used to do.”
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