Hunting isn't just a hobby, but an important healing tool for veterans involved in the HOOAH program.
HOOAH, an acronym for the U.S. Army's "Healing Outside of a Hospital" program, coordinates outdoor therapeutic events for wounded, injured and ill soldiers of Fort Campbell, Ky. The program seeks to revitalize wounded veterans - their logo features a cracked Army helmet, patched together with a Band-Aid and the term "Disabled Sportsmen" modified to spell "Enabled Sportsmen." Many of the 1,700 soldiers that have been through the program since its inception have chosen to enable themselves by taking hunting trips organized and guided by volunteers.
HOOAH volunteers work with the military to select candidates for which they believe they can do the most good. Physical and physiological abilities are evaluated to determine what each veterans needs to succeed in a hunt. Every wounded soldier is then assigned a mentor and other volunteers to support them during an expedition.
Many wounded veterans face challenges in meeting the physical demands required for hunting. Luckily, several local fundraisers, like LeRoy High School's Hangar Dance, and national sponsors have helped provide funds and equipment granting greater mobility to tackle hunting trips.
For veterans like Josue Cordova, a U.S. Air Force veteran, the program allows them to prove themselves capable. Cordova said in an interview:
A lot of people ask why we need to hunt or do other military related pastimes. This really isn't so much about hunting. It's about reliving some of the teamwork and camaraderie that so many of us miss when we were in the military.
For wounded vets like Cordova, hunting trips provided by HOOAH inspire them to further challenge, regardless of physical setbacks. While they may be donning a different type camouflage, the program lets them know that they don't need to hide.
"Programs like HOOAH put some meaning back into your life," Cordova said. "It made me want to get up and get out of my bed and get out from in front of a television set."