“Probably the most amazing thing is how many people have donated,” Gaither said. “I had absolutely nobody tell me no when I went in and asked for a donation, not one.”
After lunch Saturday, members of the Heartland Young Marines group performed a color guard presentation. Then, Hortenstine took the stage to talk about his experiences with the HOOAH program.
Hortenstine is currently stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., as part of the Warrior Transition Battalion. Most of the soldiers who take part in HOOAH hunts belong to this battalion.
When Hortenstine returned from Afghanistan, he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, after which he fell into a deep depression.
However, after getting involved with the HOOAH program, Hortenstine said he now has a more positive outlook.
“The mental healing is the big thing, I think, that soldiers get out of this,” Hortenstine said.
Although Hortenstine enjoys hunting, he said the most important part of the hunting trips is getting to relax and talk to his fellow soldiers who have had similar experiences.
“Talking to these guys makes me feel so much better,” Hortenstine said.
Tom Huffington, founder of HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes, said the soldiers who go on these hunts form strong friendships, and a support system is created whereby they can call each other if they need to talk.
“You just open up that network of communication and people you can call and get help if you need it,” Huffington said.
Also at Saturday’s event, checks were presented to the HOOAH program from Jefferson Wayne County Voiture 346 and the Mt. Vernon Marine Corps Ball. A video was also shown about the program.
Firm numbers were not available regarding how much the fundraiser brought in. However, Gaither said he felt confident organizers had reached their goal.
For more information, visit the HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes Facebook page.