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Faith, Family and Friendship

Wounded soldiers find deer hunting makes a great setting for fellowship and the healing process

Air Force member Mark Hurst talks
Air Force member Mark Hurst talks during the lunch break of the Wounded Warriors Hunt at the Montgomery Hunt Club.

By Chris Brown

When Air Force member Mark Hurst was asked by his Pastor Matt Wagner of Bridge of Life Church in Montgomery, Ala., what would he do for Jesus if money was not an option, Mark never hesitated, “I would help the Wounded Warriors of this great country.”

Mark was injured on the battlefield in May of 2004 when an RPG exploded over his head. The blast caused flesh wounds and other damage to the left side of his body and also took the sight from his left eye. He sought help from a Lt. Col. he had met who had battled back from injuries to remain in the service.

“When I asked for his advice and help, he told me he would help me but I would have to help the next person.” And that is exactly what Mark has done.

With financial support through a local Buckmasters banquet in Montgomery, along with the Bridge of Life Church and Rick Murphy of Iron Man Ministries, Mark’s vision of helping others came to fruition for 29 service members and their families. “This is the only way I know to help,” said Mark while talking to the group during lunch on Saturday afternoon at the Montgomery Hunt Club. “This was not my idea. God planted it in me, and he has a plan for us. That is why we are here today.”

Mark Hurst
Mark Hurst uses his glass eye as a prop during his talk to 28 wounded warriors and thier guides and families during the Wounded Warriors Hunt at the Montgomery Hunt Club.

The theme was faith, family and friendship. These words were echoed over and over during the course of the weekend, which began on Thursday evening Dec. 1. Twenty-nine service members attended, and 14 of them brought their families.

Friday morning came early, and the service members boarded a bus bound for the Montgomery Hunt Club. There, they were greeted by their guides/hunting buddies for the weekend, who assisted each to service member to a blind.

The group took a break that afternoon and, following a banquet back in Montgomery, were treated to a church service at St. James United Methodist Church. Guest speaker Dave Roever, a Vietnam war hero, had flown in that day from Afghanistan. He shared the gospel that night and saw 40 men give their lives to Christ.

Saturday morning saw the service members back out in the woods.

Vic Birdseye, originally from Oregon and now stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., was one of the wounded warriors hunting that day. His injuries might not be visible, but they’re substantial. nonetheless.

Wounded Warrior Vic Birdseye
Wounded Warrior Vic Birdseye, stationed at Fort Benning, Ga., shares a laugh with other service members during the Wounded Warriors Hunt at the Montgomery Hunt Club.

“I have 6 Titanium screws in my spine, arthritis in every joint, TBI (traumatic brain injury), PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), depression, anger and irritability,” Birdseye said. “My injuries might not be visible, but so many service members come home with the same issues and problems I have. Being with groups like this is a great way to help us recover.”

Events like the Wounded Warrior Hunt give the service members a break from the clinical setting and give them a chance to talk and bond with others with similar experiences and injuries.

“It’s a great coping mechanism,” Birdseye said. “It changes the theraputic environment from a doctor’s office to a deer blind. Its about helping others and helping them get their life back, The deer hunting aspect is simply an ice-breaker to help the guys open up and talk.”

During the Saturday afternoon break, Mark Hurst broke down the faith, family, friendship theme during his talk.

“Sometimes bad things have to happen for something good to come out of it,” he said. “Have faith in God that whatever he brings you to, He will bring you through. Keep a positive outlook on your recovery and life.

“Strong families build strong warriors. A strong family helps you overcome the difficult times and are instrumental in your recovery.

“And a friend is a friend no matter what. They are strong enough to stand by your side no matter the fight, and they are not afraid to tell you like it is. Life brings tragedies whether you’re a service member or a civilian, and we have to recover from that tragedy. We can choose to wallow in the our sorrows, or we can choose to focus on the positives in our lives and rise above.”

After 17 years in the Air Force, Hurst is still serving his country and giving back to those who give so much for us every day.

“Helping them overcome these tragedies and the difficult times they may be facing ... letting them know they are appreciated ... helping them get their lives back one step at a time and gaining new friends along the way. That’s what this weekend was about,” Hurst said. “Faith, family and friendship — together, nothing breaks that bond.”

Thank you to all who have served or are currently serving in the armed forces. You are valued and appreciated more than you know.

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