Wounded Warriors Healing Through Hunting

Wounded Warriors Healing Through Hunting

It's the inaugural year for the Sugar Grove Nature Center and HOOAH Deer Hunting for Heroes.
EAST PEORIA – Two McLean County men are hosting a hunting trip for six wounded warriors.

Through local donations, they hope to give them a weekend of healing.

It all started through an organization called HOOAH, which stands for “healing outside of a hospital.”

These six soldiers have been through a lot, leaving them with physical and emotional scars. For one weekend, they get to forget about all of that.

It’s a hunting trip unlike any other. It all started months ago with two McLean County hunters - Tom Huffington and Matt Graden.

Huffington said, “We saw it on the outdoor channel, saw some similar hunts and we have some good deer hunting in the Grove. We started doing some research and got hooked up with the HOOAH program.”

Staff Sergeant Matthew Taylor knows first-hand how the organization is changing lives. He said, “"It allows the soldiers including myself to channel all the pain and all the stuff away. Forget about the stupid stuff that's going on in our body, and all the crazy stuff that's happening back home and just to relax."

Ssg. Taylor and his five other soldiers are in central Illinois for the all-inclusive trip.

The first stop? Bass Pro Shop.

They’re receiving a cart full of camouflage; it includes bibs, hats, coats and boots.

Huffington said he wants the guys to have a quality experience. “Just to see them smile and have a good time and let them know that even with their injuries that there is more to come in their life that's going to be good."

Ssg. Taylor said this trip really is a different kind of therapy. No doctors, no prescriptions, but an even stronger effect.

He said, “I've seen this program, last year alone, save probably about 20 soldiers lives.”

It’s restoring their spirit and easing a little bit of their struggle. It lets them know there are many Americans out there who want to help them heel.

Huffington added, “If you see a soldier out there, thank them. You know they're doing a lot for us putting themselves in jeopardy everyday and they ask for nothing."

Soon they will get all of their new gear on and head into the woods near the Sugar Grove Nature Center in McLean County.

The second part of this story will air on Thursday.
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