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 Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address.
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 time to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday.
As outdoorsmen 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. Many years ago myself and my brother-in-law Richard Fasnacht 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 out 15 yards from our shooting location and gave Kevin the OK to fire at will.
Kevin settled the stock against his shoulder and acquired the target in the scope and deliberately and safely released the safety mechanism. He focused his attention and the cross-hairs of the scope on the aluminum can and after numerous seconds of concentration, he pulled the trigger and 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 cross-hairs. 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 myself and my duck-hunting mentor Bill Valentine on a morning duck hunt in Richmond Hill.
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 on Richard’s hunting lease 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 some property in Alamance County., N.C.
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 prime-time 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 was more than his young nerves could handle. But you 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 My brother Ronny and my good buddies Kurt Culbert and Dave Casey allowed Kevin to join our fraternity of hog-hunters on the island (aka the Hat Creek Pig Company). This is a high-intensity, powder-burning hunt.
Obviously safety is of utmost importance and this point was stressed over-and-over again with Kevin. Throughout the trip, Kevin handled himself as if he was a seasoned hunter and at no time did he violate any of the hunting or gun safety rules! 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 affords 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, people that I would allow my own child to be under their supervision, people that I knew would have a positive impact on my nephew.
Now I would like to clarify something very important; neither I nor my hunting companions will take any credit for the man that Kevin has 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 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.
I am extremely proud as both an uncle and an American to report that Kevin Green, a 2010 graduate of Richmond Hill High School, graduated from Army basic training at Fort Benning on March 2 and he is now stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., with the 101st Airborne Div., 1st Brigade Combat Team (1 BCT "Bastogne"), 327th Inf. Regiment. A
It is comforting to know that at the tip of the sword of our countries military forces are fine young men and women like Kevin Green.