by Amie Sites
— Steve Heath called Mark Liebner when he heard his friend Brandon Long was retiring from the Marines.
Liebner, owner of Camp Kay Outfitters in Monticello, wanted to do what he could to host his first Wounded Warrior hunt.
Heath, a retired staff sergeant who was in the Army for 12 years and eight months, injured his back. He had a traumatic brain injury and post traumatic stress disorder. He enlisted at 17 and served two tours in Iraq. Now 30, Heath said hunting is his therapy.
“Hunting has made my life better,” Heath said. “I don’t know what I would do without it.”
Wounded Warrior Project serves military service members who incurred service-connected wounds, injuries, or illnesses on or after September 11, 2001 and their families.
Long, a retired Marine infantry rifleman, was injured in Afghanistan in 2010 when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Long, now 22, lost both of his legs above his knees and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Long, like Heath, said hunting has helped him.
“If it wasn’t for hunting, I would be a wreck,” Long said. “It has made my recovery a lot easier.”
Liebner, who donated the hunts to Heath and Long, said it was made possible through the generosity of Logansport businessman Milt Cole, who allowed them to hunt on his land.
“My goal is to spread awareness of the Wounded Warrior program and to promote community involvement and participation,” Liebner said. “I want troops to know we care about their services.”
Liebner said he wanted to have a wounded warrior hunt because he has family members in the military and understands the importance of recognizing them. He said no one really understands what they go through.
Both Heath and Long agreed with him and said a lot of their friends died. Heath said 38 men were killed in action and 120 were wounded from his division, and Long said 27 were killed in action and over 350 were wounded from his.
Heath and Long, both from Fort Wayne, spent the weekend hunting with local guides and were given free lodging.
“These guys accommodated what we needed,” Heath said. “Support from local people, who don’t even know us, is the most humbling.”
Heath shot a deer, the biggest he has ever shot with a bow, he said.
Guide P.J. Applegate said that the experience was great because they know they can host Wounded Warriors now.
“These guys were awesome,” Applegate said. “They spent many hours in the woods and they’ve done what they needed to do- hunt.”
Applegate and Braden Cottrell are guides for Camp Kay in Cass County.
Camp Kay Outfitters, which has been open in Monticello for five years, has Midwest hunting areas that are known for huge whitetails, according to its website. The camp has a variety of hunts in Indiana, Kansas, Ohio and Maine.
Camp Kay has private acres of hunting land in Cass, Carroll, Franklin, Pike and White Counties in Indiana.
Liebner said another reason he donated the hunt was to ease the pain and help put the guys in a different state of mind.
Heath said Long is the only friend he keeps in touch with at home and it helps because he understands what he went through.
Liebner said he would be able to host more Wounded Warrior events if local landowners let them hunt on their land. Those interested in allowing operations like Wounded Warriors to hunt on their land should contact Liebner at 765-427-3228.
Amie Sites is a reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. She can be reached at 574-732-5150 or firstname.lastname@example.org.