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Veterans From Across The State Enjoy A Day At Wildlife Preserve

Virginia veterans from Bristol to Newport News enjoyed a day at the Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation’s preserve at the Cove on Thursday.

In the midst of the shotgun rounds going off there was laughter, chatter and good old-fashioned ribbing as soldiers from wars ranging from World War II to current conflicts came together as part of the “Wounded Heroes” event.

One of the highlights came during the archery competition when an archer took aim at a deer-shaped target with a bulls-eye in the middle of its body.  The arrow struck the deer, but not in the bulls-eye, rather it struck the deer squarely in the eye.

Laughter erupted from the onlookers. 

It was lighthearted moments that made the day special for veterans who have seen and experienced more than their fair share of hardships.

Some of the veterans in attendance were wounded in the course of their service while others weren’t, but they all shared a bond.

One of the veterans at the event said seeing and speaking with other wounded vets was a key part of the healing process and afforded the opportunity to learn from others who have had similar experiences.

For his part, organizer Ward Burton said he was glad that he could give back to veterans and invite his corporate sponsors to the cove to be part of the event.

“Today we’ve got about 50 guys that are American heroes in our eyes,” Burton said.  “Some have been wounded, some have not. We’ve got two gentlemen from World War II, one from the first wave at Normandy, all the way to our current conflicts.

“It’s just a way to use the outdoors and say ‘thank you’”, Burton added.  “We’ve got about 14 local guys, and it’s really neat to see them here. I know a lot of them, and I met a few of them. It’s been a lot of fun.

“This place is so special to me, being able to use it as playground growing up as a kid,” Burton said.  “We’ve done a lot of conservation projects.

“A lot of people don’t have the opportunity or don’t take the opportunity to do outdoor activities,” Burton explained.  “And I think between the fishing and the archery and the skeet shooting, it’s just a way to use the outdoors to build some comradeship and meet some new friends and see some guys that they are friends with.

“Places that this wouldn’t exist and wouldn’t be possible without people like this and the sacrifices they’ve made,” he said.

Brigadier General Robert Tucker Jr., joint task force commander, agreed that events like the one Thursday are important.

“I look forward to these events,” the general said.  “(I) Love getting out and talking to the veterans.  This is the first event I’ve worked with disabled veterans.  I never pass up an opportunity, in fact, I’ll change my calendar if I get a request, I don’t want to pass that up.

“There’s no other brotherhood in the country like the military,” Tucker explained.  “It’s very unique.  These people do things and have done things that nobody else does or even thinks about.

“If you stop and look at it, it’s just ordinary people doing extraordinary things for America,” the general said.