AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Hunting with Soldiers was started in 2007 by Gordon Melton and provides hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities to combat veterans. Melton, a veteran himself having served in the United States Air Force, said these trips allow veterans an opportunity for outdoor medication.
Melton said when he founded Hunting with Soldiers, it was because he wanted to do something for combat veterans that were coming back and give them an outreach.
“I know that outdoors is healing, it’s more therapeutic. It’s even been studied that mother nature is the best healer for PTSD and it’s something that I’ve wanted to do. I’ve also wanted to give back to other veterans that have been to war that were bothered by what they have seen and what they have been through,” said Melton.
Melton said helping someone and possibility saving a life is the best paycheck in the world.
“22 veterans committing suicide is 22 too many and that is our ultimate goal and to us, the meaning we get out of it is knowing we can save lives,” said Melton.
The organization is based in Paducah, Texas, but Melton said its reach is all over the state of Texas and said they go anywhere and everywhere they can. He said they are not just focused on the Texas panhandle. He added that 22 a day is not just here on the High Plains and said if they focus on just one area, they would be leaving out other veterans.
Chris Holt, one of the veterans who participated in a hunt with Hunting with Soldiers and is now a field officer with the group says he was lost until he found the organization.
“It was amazing and right before shot time was about to end in the evening, here comes this nice massive buck and I got to shoot. But what I got to learn from Gordon is you don’t have to squeeze down on a trigger, you can still be in a hunting blind and just go out and sit and talk to god and let mother nature just calm the worries of the day,” said Holt.
According to Melton, the hunting and fishing adventures provided by Hunting with Soldiers are at no cost to combat veterans.
“We feed them, we house them, we do everything, the only thing the veterans pay is a handshake. What we do is sit around the campfire, sit around on the porch, other than in the deer stand or on the boat fishing and just visit and let them vent, if they want to. We are just there for an open ear and to give them a good time, the best time possible,” added Melton.
Holt said these trips give veterans time to take a breath.
“When they leave, they may have not even gone out to hunt and that’s ok. But when they leave, the bags under their eyes are gone, and they’re happy, it’s a transformation like no other. It really is,” said Holt.
Melton said that recently the organization was granted a side-by-side through Family Powersports in Lubbock, as they were put in for the Can-Am for a Cause.
The side-by-side is a six-seater and Melton said this will allow them to get veterans to spots they couldn’t before in their vehicles. He said the full extent of the healing process is having access to everything.
Melton said Hunting with Soldiers, they also do children of combat veteran hunts as well. He said they allow veterans to bring their children out on a hunt and it allows them to bond.
So far this year, Melton said they have taken 84 combat veterans on hunting and fishing adventures and expect to reach 100 by December.
He added since 2007, they have helped anywhere between 1500 to 2000 veterans.