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Honoring our heroes



Whether it be the mayhem surrounding Oklahoma's legislative session, ridiculously high transportation fuel prices or the dogfights over presidential candidates, we often forget that without our military men and women willing to lay down their lives, all is for naught.

Recently, the Wild Oklahoma television crew was invited to head to northeastern Oklahoma to film a Mid-America Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America turkey hunt. We jumped at the chance, but we had no idea it would be a life-changing and life-affirming event.

The Paralyzed Veterans of America has led the charge for all disabled Americans, and the organization began back in the Forties when two Marines returning from combat began playing wheelchair basketball. Shortly thereafter, PVA was born. PVA helps not only veterans, but all people facing disabilities, through sports activities including the hunting and angling traditions we so greatly embrace in Oklahoma.

The turkey hunt hosted by the Mid-America Chapter went off without a hitch, and retired Lt. Col. Lew Deal, who flew in from Washington, D.C., commented this event is now the gold-standard for future PVA events. U.S. Rep. Dan Boren, county commissioners, the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and even U.S. Sen. James Inhofe stopped by to express their support and to share time with members of the PVA.

Many of the disabled hunters bagged their thunder chickens (turkeys), but what was most incredible was the fellowship. At the closing luncheon, held in one of the hunting guide's massive barn, the veterans and their families were seated at the head table (as well they should be), served massive steaks that would have made even Fred Flintstone blush, and presented with gifts and tokens of appreciation from event sponsors including the Farm Bureau.

And then it got very emotional, very quickly.

The president of the Mid-America Chapter of the PVA, Bill Kokendoffer, shared his appreciation for the event and the enormous outpouring of support from the community. He was so struck by the support that he could barely speak through the tears. Then, each of the veterans took time to speak, or try to, and there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Everyone in attendance left the event changed, more committed to savoring each moment life provides and inspired by the determination, commitment, patriotism and passion emanating from the PVA members.

One of the veterans, a member of Oklahoma's 45th Infantry, served in Afghanistan when his platoon was ambushed. He was shot in the head and today faces emotional and physical challenges that most of us couldn't imagine or be able to handle on a daily basis.

We were inspired by these men and women and are convinced that if average Oklahoma City residents spent even 10 minutes with one of these heroes, they too would have a life-changing and life-affirming moment. You'll have that opportunity this summer when Wild Oklahoma Radio and Television hosts a fund-raising event for these heroes.

Black is the founder of Wild Oklahoma Radio and Television and the 2007 recipient of the Oklahoma Rifle Association Media Award. 


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