Forever changed for certain are the lives of those troops who are seriously wounded in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and who must face a long and painful road of recovery and rehabilitation once back home, and will forever have to live with the physical scars of warfare.
Members of the Karnes County community and other communities came together to honor some wounded combat veterans by organizing a great outdoor hunting adventure on some pristine hunting ground in Karnes County last month on Dec. 28-29.
Karnes County Game Warden Chad Moore approached Panna Maria resident Randy Pawelek this past November with the idea of organizing a hunting and outdoor extravaganza for some wounded war heroes that have been at Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, going through extensive rehabilitation from serious wounds suffered in combat, including loss of limbs. At BAMC, many wounded troops are having to learn to function and live with artificial limbs, are having to learning to walk all over again, and are trying to adjust to normal civilization.
Pawelek and others wanted to give some of the recovering veterans a chance to get away from the BAMC facilities and to experience the therapeutic beauty and fun of the Texas outdoors, as well as to experience the deep hospitality of everyday Americans who care about them and appreciate their sacrifice.
“We have great land in Karnes County,” said Randy Pawelek. “We got plenty of game. We have great resources with all this oil money around here. We just want to help them out, get them out there and let them know that there is life after Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Pawelek and his wife, Debbie, own a large ranch that would serve as the perfect setting for the hunting outing for the veterans. The Pawelek Ranch is located on the Karnes and Goliad County line between the towns of Charco and Choate.
Many individuals and businesses came together to make the event as special and memorable as possible. All the provisions and logistics were the result of a great team effort of people giving generously of their time and resources, according to Pawelek.
The six wounded war heroes that were able to take part in the hunt were Spc. Ryan Hawk (Army), Spc. Michael Crawford (Army), Sgt. James Ragland (Army), 1Lt. James Elkins (Army), Staff Sgt. Mark Juarez (Marines), and Chris Cruz (Navy).
The veterans arrived in the afternoon on Saturday Dec. 28 and were immediately taken to the deer blinds to hunt. After hunting for awhile they were served chili and beans next to a roaring camp fire. Some family members of the heroes were also able to attend the evening dinner event.
Later that evening, each warrior was presented with various gifts by Jim Guidry, District Manager of MMR Group, a business based in Ingleside. The MMR Group raised a significant amount of funds for the veterans at a Christmas party. Each war hero received an ice chest, gift cards and other gift items.
The veterans spent the night at the Pawelek Ranch cabin and were able to go hunting again on Sunday morning. After the morning hunt, they all enjoyed a true home-cooked country breakfast.
Much more than hunting was on the list of activities for the veterans, as they all got to enjoy lots of skeet shooting and target practice in the sunny and mild weather. Being military men with combat experience, they all enjoyed the trigger time in a fun and relaxing environment.
“We did skeet shooting for about five hours,” recalled Pawelek. “Just to watch them blow off some steam was great. You’ve got to realize that they’ve been in San Antonio and not in the country. They’ve been wanting to get out there and do something outdoors.”
Later in the afternoon the men enjoyed one last hunt. Before departing, everyone enjoyed a steak dinner with all the trimmings. A total of five deer were harvested during the event.
Pawelek states that plans are already being talked about for another hunt to honor wounded war veterans for December of this year. Pawelek believes that it’s the least the community can do to show appreciation and gratitude to wounded and disabled combat veterans of America’s most recent wars.
“You open your land up, you give them a place to stay, you feed them, you give them gifts,” said. “It’s just something we want to do as American citizens. They‘re from America and they‘re coming back from a war. We send them over there to fight for our country, for our freedom, and to protect us.”
Pawelek reflects how the overall experienced touched his life and the lives of all those involved in the experience and interaction with the wounded veterans.
“I loved it,” he said. “I tell you what, it will bring tears to your eyes.”