It has been said a picture is worth a thousand words, here are a few.
We just completed the final elk hunt of 2013 with wounded veterans. We had 2 combat wounded veterans and 1 who will soon be medically retired on an elk hunt in northern New Mexico near the Colorado border. We were Blessed to have donated tags and access on private ranches for the hunt. The weather was grand, a bit brisk near about 15 below zero on Saturday morning up to about 15 degrees above on Wednesday morning. There was quite a bit of snow, although the sun was out and shining every day. We stayed in rental cabins next to a frozen creek, were hosted and guided by some great folks with true giving spirits; a grand time was had by all.
This was the second year and third elk hunt for the Mountain Top Safaris project that I have participated in and the 4th hunt overall that the Staurolite Foundation has sponsored. The elk cooperated, largely due to the quality of guides. In case you were wondering, I was not a guide. We had 4 veteran service men that live in the area of Costilla, NM who guided, donated time, allowed access on their own property, donated tags, and generally helped make this hunt a success. We had a great family in the area who donated elk tags and hosted all of us for a meal every evening. We had donors who provided jackets, t-shirts, caps, groceries, and time to gather all these things and deliver them to the area. The hunt was a great success by all standards. And the elk cooperated. Our hunters took home a nice bull elk and one cow elk.
The purpose of these hunts is to show appreciation for the sacrifice and service of these wounded veterans and to allow them time in the beautiful mountains of northern New Mexico. Hopefully, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is honored and all of us who participate in some form or fashion have the opportunity to grow closer to him as well. It seems to me that all goals were met.
Our hunters, names purposefully not included out of respect for these men, included one young man who was wounded working as a nuclear electrician on the aircraft carrier Nimitz when the main electrical panel blew up in his face. After spending months recovering from the burns over 65% of his body, he began to serve other wounded service men and women as well as Gold Star families.
Another of our hunters was injured by an IED while serving in the Middle East. He had severe leg injuries and wears a brace inside his boot. If you followed him up an extremely steep mountain, with snow almost knee deep and on the north facing slope so there was ice under the snow in a lot of places, you would have a hard time believing he was severely injured. He served on foot and spent a lot of time up high in the mountains of Afghanistan. We hunted mostly in the 8000 to 9000 foot altitude area, but on the day we tracked an elk up a mountain, we were well above the 10,000 foot level. He and his unit had spent a lot of time well above 12,000 feet elevation in Afghanistan so mountain climbing and winter conditions were nothing new to him, but this time with a leg that did not work well. And never ever did I hear anything from him but, “I’m good, let’s go.”
Our third hunter on this adventure received physical injuries while serving but quietly explained the emotional issues that still haunt him are what continue to limit his activities. This young man had not hunted a lot and the hunt was an opportunity for him to have new experiences and continue his emotional recovery. His physical limitations were not apparent, although they were present.
Every one of these hunts brings home to me the true servant hearts of these men, warriors all, but truly servants. I am amazed at their lack of self-pity or even lack of self-concern. They drove 15 hours on Thursday, awoke early on Friday, actually much earlier than I wanted, raring to go. They were up early, hunted hard all day, and slept little. In a normal situation after a long drive, little sleep, and a lot of exercise in terrain and altitude that is way different from where we live, folks will begin to be a bit irritable and even short tempered, not these guys. They were always upbeat, appreciative, and just glad to be there. What a Blessing to those of us who were honored to provide support for them on this hunt.
These hunts are not possible without donations of time, energy, expertise, goods, and plain ole’ genuine care and concern; we had all those things and more in major amounts. Thanks to Nemmi, Danny, Art, Steve, Gerry & Alyssa, Rachel, Joe, New Mexico Propane, and Urban Solutions for all their support.
Special thanks to Pete and Greg and the folks with Steele Consulting and Responsive Learning for our website. Because of them, we are able to post pictures and provide updates soon after the hunt. If you have any interest in supporting these hunts, we welcome your support through prayer, in person, or by a donation.
May your Christmas be Blessed and New Year prosperous. Please remember, you have the ability to enjoy this Christmas season and all the people, time off work, grand meals, and gifts due to the sacrifices of men like these and so many others.
God Bless you,
Michael T. Smith
the Staurolite Foundation