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  • For the seventh year, Wounded Warrior Range Day offered military personnel a day away from the hospital.
    David Bathras
    For the seventh year, Wounded Warrior Range Day offered military personnel a day away from the hospital.
  • For the seventh year, Wounded Warrior Range Day offered military personnel a day away from the hospital.
    David Bathras
    For the seventh year, Wounded Warrior Range Day offered military personnel a day away from the hospital.

Veterans Unwind At Wounded Warrior Range Day

Judy Tacyn
Judy Tacyn's picture
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June 14, 2017

More than 100 U.S. veterans and Stoney Creek Fishing and Hunting Club members came together on Saturday, June 3, on the club’s vast compound on Fort Smallwood Road in Pasadena, for a day of shooting, sharing, eating and fellowship. Now in its seventh year, Wounded Warrior Range Day offers military personnel receiving medical treatment and care at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital a day away from their medical facility.

Jesse Garcia, originally from Miami, was in tank crew operations in Germany when he was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer. He’s now a patient at Walter Reed.

“The camaraderie here is incredible,” said Garcia. “[Veterans] share an unspoken bond. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms and I am truly humbled to be a part of this day.”

More than a decade ago, Range Day co-founders Gene Russell and Ed Kiser crossed paths and the two immediately hit it off. As their working relationship turned into a friendship, it came as no surprise to either that their connection had actually formed approximately 40 years earlier when they were both in the Army during the Vietnam War. Their shared experiences solidified their friendship and unbreakable brothers-in-arms bond.

The two also shared a strong desire to support organizations — such as the Air Warrior Courage Foundation and the Wounded Warrior Project — that provide assistance to U.S. military personnel and their dependents. Kiser, a board member of the Stoney Creek Fishing and Hunting Club, and Russell, an Army Green Beret, joined forces to create Wounded Warrior Range Day.

“We wanted to support the wounded warriors in ways that others may not,” said Russell. Through what he calls “a cobweb of connections,” and Kiser’s affiliation with Stoney Creek, the two began offering activities such as fishing and hunting trips and a day at the range after working closely with hospital staff to confirm need and medical requirements for the injured service members.

Drew Joyner, a New Mexico native and Army tank operator who had been stationed in Germany, is a patient at Walter Reed, where he is being treated for serious heart complications due to severe carbon monoxide poisoning while on active duty.

“I’ve had two surgeries so far,” said Drew Joyner, who attended the event with his sister, Dela Joyner, his non-medical assistant. “As a patient I don’t really get out much, so to be able to come here with other veterans is really great.”

Dela Joyner is a law enforcement officer from Las Cruces, New Mexico. She’s on leave from her department to assist her brother. Dela also took part in the firearm activities. “I think it’s totally cool that [the veterans] are out here to make this day happen.”

Russell said he is regularly told, “This is the best therapy I’ve ever had.” In 2015, Russell was visiting a man in the traumatic brain injury unit in Fort Belvoir. Though the men never spoke of the incident that caused the younger man to enter the hospital, Russell suspects an IED (improvised explosive device) was the culprit. Russell left that visit thinking the younger man was not likely to survive the injury.

The next summer, during a Chesapeake Bay fishing trip, Russell and Kiser were overwhelmed to see that young man on the boat. “I didn’t even recognize him,” said Russell. “It was a very emotional day.”

Over the years, Russell and Kiser have received heaps of support and donations. Their team of volunteers now provides Thanksgiving and Christmas meals to service families, funds for dental care to vehicle repair, baby showers and even Santa visits.

The weapons and ammunition for the Wounded Warrior Range Day are provided by John Meyer and the Team One Network, which offers firearms training, tactical training and safety instruction for law enforcement and military personnel. The food is donated by Baltimore-based Impero Foods & Meats Inc., Fifer’s Seafood in Pasadena, and others. And, more than 50 Stoney Creek members donate their time and join the service men and women at the pistol, rifle and trap stations.

Samuel Ratihn is a member of the prestigious United States Marine Corps Shooting Team. He was just one of the many Quantico, Virginia-based marksmen who were on hand to assist the wounded veterans.

“We are all brothers in arms,” said Ratihn. “Events like this one [are] a way to give back to [the wounded veterans] and recognize the honorable time they served. It’s really important that they know we are here to support them no matter how long they might need us.”

To learn more or to make a donation, contact Gene Russell at 703-220-5322 or Ed Kiser at 443-623-5199.

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