Clays Of Gratitude—Helping A Hero

On Saturday, November 15, 23 wounded veterans and their families enjoyed a day of competitive shooting and mixing with sponsors and volunteers at Pawnee Sporting Clays of Fayetteville, Texas. The shooting range sponsored the event in conjunction with the Helping A Hero Foundation of Houston, whose mission is to help severely wounded veterans of the war on terror and their families adjust to life after injury.

Helping A Hero’s primary activity is to partner with builders and contractors in each veteran’s community to build homes that are specially adapted to the soldier’s needs. This allows vets and their families to live more independent lifestyles in their communities. According to Helping A Hero president and retired US Army Col. Jeff Ragland, the foundation has awarded over 100 homes in 22 states. As a special note, Ed and Karen Matayka and their twins are scheduled to move into their new Helping A Hero home early in 2015.

Ed assumed his place in station five, shouldered the borrowed Browning, and called for the first target. It came from behind a large cedar tree —a difficult, sharply rising teal—visible only as it neared its apex. He broke the bird on its fall, though he did not make it look easy. US Army SSG (Ret) Matayka had to not only overcome the bad habits and mental lapses that bedevil many of us, he had to break the target without the use of his left arm and without either leg, losses he sustained in Afghanistan when an IED ripped open his Humvee.

Since my team followed Ed’s around the course, there was ample opportunity to engage him in conversation. I found he and his wife Karen—recent new parents of twins—friendly and responsive, and they seemed to be enjoying the tournament in spite of the chilly weather. As I watched Ed shoot, though, I saw something unusual. Hit or miss, his demeanor and expression would not change. No word escaped his lips. Though he appeared to enjoy being there and to take pleasure in shooting, his success or failure on each target seemed to him almost a matter of indifference.

I would estimate that a third of our shooting veterans who attended the benefit shoot had the special air Ed exhibited: polite, respectful, expressing genuine gratitude for the event and the generosity of its sponsors. They might look at us politely but a bit sideways as they receive our heart felt “Thank you for your service.”

Setting the targets that day were NSCA Master-class shooters Mark Tipton and David Bishop, who, under the relaxed rules of the event, alternated stations with each other to shoot on one of the teams with the vets. Over 50 other local volunteers and companies helped stage the event. Ladies from the La Grange, Texas, chapter of the DAR served as “team moms” assisting the vets with registration and transporting them with their sponsors around the course for the competition. The effervescent Houston Texans Cheerleaders presented marksmanship awards and otherwise lifted spirits during the post-event festivities at Pawnee Sporting Clays (www.pawneesportingclays.com).

Top warrior shooter was David Glenn with 79x100. The winning Top Team award went to the “Regulators” with a combined score of 299x400. Among its members were warrior Zach Rhyner of Medford, Wisconsin, who was awarded the Air Force Cross for conspicuous gallantry in action in Afghanistan, and warrior Shilo Harris of Stockdale, Texas, Iraq combat veteran and author of the best-selling book Steel Will (www.amazon.com). Team Regulators sponsor/shooters were NSCA member Butch Jeffcoat and Tom Wadsworth. Thanks to the generosity of sponsors and the hard work of volunteers, this event raised $101,300 for Helping A Hero’s (www.helpingahero.org) ongoing Wounded Veteran’s Programs.

Source: Sporting Clays Magazine, January 2015 issue

Written by: Tom Hill

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Clays Of Gratitude—Helping A Hero