- Family Features
- Business Directory
- Gallery Of Homes
- Subscribe Now!
- Place A Classified Ad
- New! Digital e-Edition
Wounded Warrior turns to hunting
Dec 15, 2012 5:20 pm
MT. JULIET - Kristen Steakley was side-by-side in the field with her military comrades during her deployment at Camp Stone in Afghanistan as part of the Tennessee Army Guard.
After serving as a military police officer for nearly a year, she severely injured her shoulder while exiting a Humvee. In July, Steakley, 24, came back to her home town in Mt. Juliet to heal.
A few weeks ago she was again side-by-side with her fellow soldiers, but this time it was in a duck blind on an Illinois lake. She and 16 other Wounded Warriors took part in a special hunting event for injured soldiers who are trying to adjust to life as civilians.
"It was really cool to hunker down with other Wounded Warriors and just relax and enjoy each other," said Steakley, who was one of two women at the hunt. "It was a very good healing process to share stories and realize that many suffer much greater injuries than I have."
Grassy Lake Hunting Club and Southern Illinois University sponsored the annual event. The soldiers participating in the hunt this year came from Fort Campbell, Ky. and Fort Knox's Warrior in Transition battalions. There are 100 women in the battalion.
"It's part of the Healing Outside of the Hospital program," said Tom Geotz.
He helped organize this fourth-annual event for Wounded Warriors.
"The hunts help our brave, injured soldiers get outdoors and basically helps them heal emotionally and physically," said Geotz.
Geotz said Steakley and the others attended a basketball game at Southern Illinois University the night before the hunt, where they were honored during halftime.
"It was extremely emotional," said Steakley. "There was a standing ovation."
One of the soldiers who accompanied Steakley on the hunt trip was Mike Husley. He is a wounded 101st Airborne soldier. He credits Geotz for saving his life.
"When we called him three years ago to ask him to take part in a hunt he literally had a loaded shotgun barrel in his mouth," said Geotz. "He had persistent war injury problems and decided he didn't want to live anymore."
Husley brought Geotz a handmade duck call this year out of gratitude. Husley was in Iraq and on a mission giving out coloring books and crayons to local children. He had to teach the children how to use the crayons. Right before he left, the father of the children came over and gave him a hug and thanked him. Geotz and his comrades were caught in crossfire just after they left this family.
"Mike's interpreter and gunner were killed immediately, and Mike was shot several times," said Geotz.
After the incident, they took the mask off of one of the shooters and it was the father who had just hugged Husley.
"See, it's these stories that people don't hear," said Geotz. "We are encouraged to ask the soldiers how they were injured. These hunts are therapy for Mike. He has flashbacks and problems from his injuries."
Husley not only credits Geotz for saving his life, but also told him that he credits him for giving his wife back her husband, and his children back their father.
Perry Thorington was also on the hunt. He's from the 101st Airborne and was hit by an improvised explosive device while serving in Iraq.
"He was blown 40 yards in the air," said Geotz. "He always comes to our hunts."
Thorington suffered brain injuries and lost an eye, along with other injuries.
"People just don't realize what our soldiers go through," said Geotz. "It is the most awarding thing to become friends with them."
On Friday, Steakley got a physical associated with her attempt to become a Tennessee State Trooper. She hasn't heard yet if she's been accepted.
"I've always wanted to be a police officer," she said. "In Afghanistan I helped in that capacity, so I thought why not in the civilian world."
Steakley said she's made good friends with some of the soldiers she met last month during the hunt. She attended a deer hunt three months ago and plans to keep active with the project.
"It's nice to heal and feel normal during the hunt," she said. "Sometimes I get down with my physical limitations that I'm overcoming. When you see fellow wounded solders you become humbled when you see they are more injured than you are. I've made some great connections. I'm beginning to get joy out of living again.
And, she managed to land a duck during the hunt.