A few weeks ago my friend, TJ Greaney, called me up and asked me to shoot with him in a benefit sporting clays shoot in Austin. Which was immediate proof that he was desperate. No one asks me to be on their shooting team because they’re trying to win something, or even escape without embarrassment.TJ, if you recall, along with his son, Cody Ryan, hosts an outdoor radio show on 104.9 ‘The Horn’ radio station in Austin every Saturday morning from six to eight, which is way too early to get out of bed on Saturday. Which is why I have so far not been a guest on the radio show. Well, that and the fact that TJ hasn’t asked me to.But he was scraping the bottom of the sporting clays barrel to put four shooters together for this benefit shoot, because there was an Operation Game Thief shoot the same day in San Antonio, and just about everyone he knew who owned a shotgun was at that one. So he called me, and told me to find another shooter, since he only had himself and RW McDonald lined up.So I called my friend, Joel Draper, who owns a shotgun, and asked him if he’d like to take a Friday and shoot on the team. And Joel said, “Nah.” So I told him about the free breakfast and free fried fish lunch, and twisted his arm a little, and finally talked him into it.The shoot was hosted by the Austin chapter of the NFL Alumni Association, and the money raised went to CASA, which is one of the best causes I know of. And besides the free food, we got to shoot with retired NFL players, who I would describe as very large men. Luckily they were also very friendly and personable.The shoot went pretty well, although our team didn’t exactly shoot in the top ten percent. Or the top twenty percent. Actually, I would be surprised if we shot in the top eighty percent, but we shot at just about every clay bird we were supposed to, and a few we weren’t supposed to, so it all worked out OK.While we were eating our free fried fish afterward, I happened to sit across from a fellow named Butch Roberson, who happens to be associated with a group called Combat Marine Outdoors. CMO is a non-profit organization which was formed in 2005 to give something back to some of the wounded Marines who end up at Brook Army Medical Center, which is part of the San Antonio Military Medical Center, the largest inpatient medical facility the Department of Defense has. It is also the only DoD Burn Center, and the only Level 1 Trauma Center in the U.S. The volunteers at CMO work closely with the staff at Brook, picking up Marines as soon as they’re able to be released from the hospital for a day or two, and taking them on hunting and fishing trips. CMO is Marines helping Marines, and the experiences they provide allow many of our wounded heroes to readjust to their world far more quickly than they would otherwise.Sitting in a hospital bed, waiting for major trauma to heal, is never any fun for anyone, especially for people accustomed to a vigorous, active, productive lifestyle. The hunting and fishing trips arranged by CMO offer a chance for wounded Marines to feel vital again, to see the reasons they have to recuperate and go on with their lives. Perhaps as important, the trips show these warriors that the people they’ve sacrificed part of their lives for care about them, and that they’re appreciated.CMO has about 50 ranches in active participation with the program, but there is always a need for funds. Donations are always welcome, and fundraisers help fill the coffers. This December 10 one such event will be held at the National Shooting Sports Complex in San Antonio, and will be an opportunity for grateful citizens of all ages to have a wonderful time, while showing support for those who have given so much for us.The event is called a .22 Plink Fest, and will include three handgun events and three rifle events, all with .22 caliber firearms, and the targets will be metal silhouettes at various ranges. There will be loaner guns available for those who don’t have their own, and the cost of entry for the entire event is $75 per person – little enough to help out those who have fought to preserve our way of life. Sponsors are especially needed for this event.Besides allowing me to help promote CASA at the NFL sporting clays shoot, TJ’s call also enabled me to learn about another group that’s doing a fantastic job helping people who deserve more than we can give them. We may not have hit many targets that day, but we had a lot of fun, and nobody got hurt.Well, not seriously . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who is available for just about any shotgun related competitive event, for those who aspire to shoot in the top 90 percent of the pack. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org