North American Hunting Club members knew how excited and honored I was to be included in the Armed Forces Entertainment/Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) Outdoor Legends Tour. Then, with departure set for a Monday morning in late February, word came late on the preceding Friday night that the Tour—at least the portion of which I was to participate—was cancelled.
For security reasons, definitive itineraries were kept secret, even from those of us participating, until just before departure. It turned out the group with whom I was to travel was to be spending a big chunk of the time in Afghanistan. That was right when things heated up with the unintentional burning of the Qurans at a U.S. base. Those in charge of the Tour, and getting us there and home safely, wisely decided to pull the plug for our group. It was just too dangerous for us, and all the troops had a lot more important things to deal with than herding a bunch of celebrities around.
The other half of the Legends made the trip as their itinerary included places like Kuwait and elsewhere the U.S. has service men and women on duty. Their visits were highly appreciated by the men and women they saw, and their reports of the experience only strengthened my enthusiasm for making the trip myself. However, with the ever-changing landscape of politics and fighting in Southwest Asia, I couldn’t build confidence that our group would actually get to make the journey.
Then an e-mail arrived from Washington last week with the great news! Details are sketchy (as they have to be for security reasons), but our group leader Lt. Col. Lew Deal, USMC (ret.) with the PVA confirmed we’ll be headed to Southwest Asia this summer on a new schedule and with a new itinerary. The Outdoor Legends Tour II is on!
I will be joining Jim Shockey, Brenda Valentine and Ronnie “Cuz” Strickland, along with Col. Deal to shake hands, sign autographs, take pictures and share the message of how much America’s outdoorsfolk appreciate the sacrifice, and remind them how much we’re looking forward to having them in the field with us when they return home.
Col. Deal, who was the guiding light behind creation of the tour, said he believes this Tour represents the first time personalities from the outdoor world have been organized to meet the troops in person. “For those currently serving in a war zone there are few things that mean as much as knowing the folks back home care about you," he said. "This is a unique gathering of well-known television hosts, industry leaders and recognized outdoor personalities who are taking the time to tell our troops—in person and face to face, that the outdoor community cares about them and is eager to welcome them home ... and back into the outdoors.”
I will keep my fellow NAHC members posted as best I can as the trip comes together … again. And rest assured, I’ve kept all your messages and comments, which I will take with to pass along to the troops. And please, leave more comments with your thoughts and well wishes. The more the better! These dedicated service people deserve all the thanks and recognition we can give them.