By Kenny Roberts
Each year, as we approach the Memorial Day holiday, my thoughts turn to those who have served in the military for our country and those who gave the “last full measure of devotion” (as delivered by Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 1863, Gettysburg, Penn.).There may be more sacred holidays – I certainly will not question that. However, I truly believe that the Memorial Day holiday is a special time and that we as Americans should take some of it to reflect on the true meaning.
As outdoorsman and hunters, I think we as a whole hold a great appreciation for our military and those who make the sacrifice to preserve our freedom. Maybe it is the camouflage clothing, the weapons that our military personnel carry, the utilization of cover in military tactics or event the weather elements that they endure; whatever the reasoning is – we generally hold our military personnel in great regard.
Many years ago my brother-in-law, Richard Fasnacht, and me took my nephew Kevin Green to my hunt club for an afternoon of target shooting with my Marlin .22. Kevin was probably 7- or 8-years old at the time. After discussing the importance of gun safety and getting Kevin familiar with the rifle, we placed a couple of aluminum cans 15 yards from our shooting location and gave Kevin the o.k. to “fire-at-will.”
Kevin settled the stock against his shoulder, acquired the target in the scope and deliberately and safely released the safety mechanism.
He focused his attention and the crosshairs of the scope on the aluminum can and after numerous seconds of concentration, he pulled the trigger. The can rattled as the bullet passed through it. We placed another cartridge in the chamber of the rifle and the same sequence occurred over-and-over again.
Kevin never once pulled the trigger until he was fully confident that the target was centered in the crosshairs. The delay between acquiring the target and the report of the rifle seemed like an eternity to us veteran shooters who were standing behind him. Can after can fell to the ground as the bullets ripped through them.
The next fall Kevin joined my duck-hunting mentor, Bill Valentine, and me on a morning duck hunt in Richmond Hill, Ga.
Kevin was still too young to handle a shotgun and he had yet completed his hunter safety course, so he simply hid along the creek bank while Bill and I scratched out a few wood ducks. Although he was not “hunting” with us, he was there and seemed to enjoy the camaraderie and watching the sun come up over our little duck-hole.
Several years later, Richard and I accompanied Kevin on his first deer hunt in eastern North Carolina. No deer were harvested, but several were spotted and I recall one in particular that ran by fairly close to our position. As the small buck passed by, Richard instructed Kevin to not take the shot due to the distance and the probability of not making a humane kill. Even though extremely excited, Kevin did not question the advice or decision.
The next year, Richard and I once again took Kevin deer hunting on property in Alamance County, NC. I placed Kevin in a ladder stand at the base of my feet on a cold November morning prior to sunrise.
As the sun peaked over the horizon and the anticipation of primetime deer movement approached, Kevin turned over his shoulder to me and informed me that he felt as if he was going to be sick. Seconds later, his premonition came true and we exited the stand and went back to the truck for a little heat and an hour-long nap. Apparently the excitement of the moment, in the deer stand – one of the most productive deer stands I have hunted from, his two uncles with him and the anticipation of harvesting his first deer were more than his young nerves could handle.
You simply cannot put a price tag on that type of excitement and enthusiasm that he showed that morning.
Our next great hunting adventure with Kevin was our hog hunting trip to Ossabaw Island, Ga. My brother, Ronny, my good buddies Kurt Culbert and Dave Casey “allowed” Kevin to join our fraternity of hog hunters on the island (a.k.a. the Hat Creek Pig Company). This is a high-intensity, powder-burning hunt!
Hogs are numerous and around each bend or in each slough you encounter, hogs that are found are met by a large number of gun reports!
Obviously, safety is of utmost importance and that point was stressed over-and-over again with Kevin. Throughout the trip, though, Kevin handled himself as if he was a seasoned hunter. And at no time did he violate any of the golden rules of hunting gun safety! Around the evening campfire, he was just another one of the guys and he fit right into our little band of brothers.
Hunting, and the outdoor lifestyle in general, afford us an excellent opportunity to mentor our youth and teach them many life skills. My hunting and fishing companions are not randomly selected, nor is it based on what opportunities they may provide me in the field. They are role models – people I trust and people that I would allow my own child to be under their supervision. They are people that I knew would have a positive impact on my nephew.
Now I would like to clarify something very important: My hunting companions or I will not take any credit for the man that Kevin has grown to become. That credit goes to his most important mentors, his mother and father.
I would simply like to say “thank you” to Randy and Jeannie for allowing us (and I think I can speak for Richard, Bill, Ronny, Kurt and Dave) the opportunity to expose Kevin to the lifestyle that we so dearly appreciate. It was our honor and privilege to have Kevin join us on these hunting trips and adventures. We look forward to them continuing for many years in the future.
I am extremely proud as both an uncle, and an American, to report that our hunting buddy Kevin Green graduated from Army basic training at Fort Benning, Ga. on March 2, 2012.
Kevin is now stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, with the 101st Airborne Div., 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT “Bastogne”), 327th Inf. Regiment.
Allow me to quote a passage from the Soldier’s Creed: “I am a guardian of freedom and the American way of life. I AM AN AMERICAN SOLDIER.”
It is comforting to know that at the tip of the sword of our country’s military forces are fine young men and women like Kevin Green!