By TRAVIS MORSE
WOODLAWN — Rural Woodlawn resident Tom Gaither opened up his home to a group of recovering soldiers this past weekend as part of a hunting excursion organized by the Healing Outside Of A Hospital program.
HOOAH, based out of Fort Campbell, Ky., is an outdoor recovery initiative that gives wounded Army soldiers the chance to go on hunting and fishing trips to hasten their healing process.
Gaither’s first experience with the program occurred last October, when he served as a cook and guide on one of the HOOAH hunting trips.
During that excursion, Gaither spoke one-on-one with many of the soldiers, who shared their harrowing battle experiences. Hearing the soldiers speak about their service inspired Gaither to get more involved in HOOAH.
“You start hearing guys talk about (going) three days with no food and being under fire almost every day, it makes you realize we think we’ve got it tough,” Gaither said. “Volunteer work is just a way to pay the people back.”
About eight soldiers stayed at Gaither’s home this past weekend for the HOOAH hunt.
Most of these soldiers went on a goose hunt in Marion starting Saturday, and two stayed behind to bow-hunt on Gaither’s property.
In addition to the Fort Campbell HOOAH organization, two other agencies helped coordinate the weekend’s hunt. They included HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes and Hero Hunt, Inc.
These organizations are dependent on donations to fund the soldier excursions.
“Basically, what it does is it allows these soldiers to get out of the hospital and get off the base, get off therapy, get out and just enjoy themselves, be kids again, young men,” said Tom Huffington, director of HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes. “It really builds confidence in these guys.”