WOODLAWN — — To Sgt. First Class Luke Hortenstine of the U.S. Army, the HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes program offers a vital source of mental healing for wounded soldiers.
Hortenstine has been on multiple hunts and fishing trips through the program, and said the camaraderie he's experienced has helped him greatly in his own healing process.
“It's important in so many facets (of) helping soldiers,” Hortenstine said. “For myself, mentally, it brought me back. … Having them guys around and just showing you that people care and the camaraderie that they invite you like family up there, that's the mental healing that we really get from it.”
Hortenstine was the guest speaker Saturday at a special fundraiser held for the HOOAH Deer Hunt for Heroes program at Woodlawn Christian Church.
HOOAH stands for Healing Outside Of A Hospital. The program gives wounded Army soldiers the chance to go on hunting and fishing trips to enjoy camaraderie and hasten their healing process.
The fundraising goal for Saturday's event was set at $5,000. Money raised will help pay for a planned HOOAH hunting trip in Jefferson County this October.
At the event, ticket holders enjoyed a meal of barbecue pork or grilled chicken, along with baked beans, coleslaw, chips and dessert. There was also a silent auction featuring a wide variety of items.
Tom Gaither of rural Woodlawn, a HOOAH volunteer, estimated that more than 100 people received meals Saturday. That includes people who ate at the church, as well as those who had pre-sold meals or carry-out orders.
Gaither said he has been overwhelmed by the support HOOAH has received from area businesses and residents.
Prior to the event, Gaither went around to local businesses and asked for either cash donations or items for the silent auction. No one refused his request, he said.