Waterfowl for Warriors … 2016

Last Thursday I was privileged to attend the lunch for one of the annual veteran’s hunts that are part of the Waterfowl for Warriors project. The hunts are held at the City of Anoka Nature Preserve. This year there are four separate events throughout September and October. (See HERE for last year’s blog about this event.)

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When I arrived at the lunch, I was greeted by this mound of birds. The hunters bagged 45 birds – quite the successful hunt!

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Just prior to lunch, Sgt. Scott Wall, Minnesota State Patrol and one of the founders of the Waterfowl for Warriors program, recapped the morning hunting event.

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Jim Urban, Anoka Legion Chaplain and Waterfowl for Warriors volunteer, lead the group in prayer before lunch.

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Hunters and volunteers were quite busy, discussing the successful hunt. (The man who is standing is Anoka City Manager, Greg Lee.) Just sitting there, I could feel and see the respect and joy of the veterans and volunteers for one another. What an amazing experience.

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Katie, a black lab, was pretty interested in the lunch being served. Maybe she wanted some of the carrot cake that is provided by Ellen Ward each year. All I know is that the whole cake disappeared, but Katie is not to blame. The veterans requested two cakes for next year. Katie is the cook’s (Mark Bechenbach) dog.

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This is Tom Weaver, the man who makes custom duck calls. Two duck calls were given as (out)door prizes to lucky veterans. To learn more about the duck calls, click HERE.

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Easton Eckstrom drew the names of the winners for the duck calls. Easton is the five-year son of Derrick Ekstrom, a veteran and a City of Anoka Police officer. Also shown in the photo is Sgt. Scott Wahl  and Jeff Weaver, Anoka City Council Member.

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The group also recognized the cook, Mark Bechenbach, for the excellent meal. Mark is a little shy. Also shown in the photo is Mark Anderson, City of Anoka Public Works Superintendent, Bill Bye from the City of Anoka Public Works Department, and Mark Bechenbach, Veteran, City of Anoka Volunteer Fireman, and Event Cook.

So, here we were, sitting out in a nature preserve, enjoying lunch on a warm Thursday in September, with veterans. It doesn’t get much better than that!

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The hunting crew (Photo by Jeff Weaver)

Thanks for reading!

 

Waterfowl for Warriors … getting veterans out hunting

Veteran’s Day, 2015

In honor of all veterans, this year I am writing about a very special veteran’s project in Anoka, Minnesota. For the third year, the City of Anoka hosted the Waterfowl for Warriors event. Each year there are two September hunts for early goose season and two October hunts for regular waterfowl season. The events are held at the Anoka Nature Preserve, a 200-acre parcel of land that was placed into conservation by the City.

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Each event includes a morning hunt where veterans are transported to the field. Volunteers call birds and provide dogs for retrieving, along with patrolling the perimeter of the field to assure a safe hunt and alert people that a hunt is occurring. Ammunition for the hunt is provided by Federal Premium Ammunition, a long-standing employer and community partner in Anoka.The morning’s hunt concludes with a fully-donated lunch. At the first event, Minnesota DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr presented medallions to each of the Veteran Hunters prior to the hunt. Plaques were also presented, recognizing those who have volunteered to make the hunts such a success.

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The idea for the project was started by Scott Wahl, a state patrol officer from Coon Rapids, and George Walker, an Anoka police officer and former marine. These two were joined and enthusiastically supported by Anoka Council member Jeff Weaver. The hunts are becoming more and more popular – so much so that the city is now stepping in to further help by taking over the registration of veterans for the hunts.

A successful hunt … in many, many ways.

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For more stories on the hunts, click HERE and HERE.

A BIG THANK YOU to all VETERANS!!

As always, thank you for reading my blog.

Photos provided by Jeff Weaver.

A morning with veterans …

Last week I spent the morning taking my brother to his check-up at the Veterans Affairs facility in St. Cloud, Minnesota. First, he was scheduled to have blood work done at 7:30 am – so we left for his appointment before 6:30 am that morning. We arrived a little early so he decided to go to the appointment a little early; I decided to stay outside, sitting in my vehicle, with windows down and a warm summer breeze flowing through the car — and, of course, a cup of coffee in my hand.

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Veterans facility in St. Cloud

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Walking path …

There has been a lot of conversation about the poor treatment of veterans at such facilities. What I experienced, however, was much different. Of course, I wasn’t experiencing the inner workings of the facility – just observing the people at the facility. I saw employees walking to the facility, smiling, talking and greeting one another or those walking on the path, engaged in lively conversations. I didn’t see anyone who looked even remotely crabby. And, of course, there were many veterans arriving for services. They all greeted one another – occasionally stopping for a short conversation.

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Love the prices!

About 8:15 am, my brother returned to the car. HIs next appointment wasn’t until 9:00 am so we left for a quick breakfast at a local restaurant that serves everyday food.   After a good breakfast with fast and friendly service, we headed back to the VA facility.

I again chose to sit in the car and work on identifying ideas for blog posts. It didn’t take long and the idea for this blog presented itself. I started watching workers who were cutting down a tree and grinding up the branches (I’m always fascinated by machinery.)

007 Within minutes, a red pickup backed up, next to my car, and a slim gentleman, with white hair held  in a ponytail, jumped out. He approached the workers and minutes later they happily loaded two large pieces of the tree trunk into his truck and then went back to their business.

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Obviously an older tree – lots of growth rings.

The man from the truck saw me watching and came over to my car. He explained that he carves bowls and other such items from wood and the wood that they loaded was black walnut – a premium wood for carving. He was very happy and excited to get the wood. We talked more and he told me he was a Viet Nam veteran who had been coming to this facility since 1990. Having observed the friendly environment, I asked him what he thought of the facility. He stated that the services at the facility, which in his early years there were quite unsatisfactory, have steadily improved. He explained that the workers now are enthusiastic and care about the veterans, something not always experienced in the past. He also commented that they are doing a much better job in caring for the physical environment – so it looks like they care about the place.

I was hoping I could buy some of the bowls he makes but I will have to wait. He said his health prevents him from working a lot of the time so I should check next summer. Then he realized he was a bit late for his appointment but he was sure they would understand when he explained he just had been talking to the Planning Director from the City of Anoka. Haha – I doubt they would be impressed with that, but, given the friendly atmosphere, I’m quite sure they forgave him for being late.

And, by the way, my brother is fine.

A very short touching story … about a Vietnam war veteran

Last night we went to the area cemeteries and watered flowers on the graves of family members. As we were leaving Lakeside Cemetery (Spencer Brook Township, Isanti County) we saw this figure of a priest along the road. As I was taking a photo of it, a man and his young children road up on their ATV. He explained that the ‘priest’ was there when he bought the property. It was placed there by the previous owner, a Vietnam war veteran, almost 20 years ago. Sadly, the veteran took his life by burning his house. The man on the ATV told me that he has touched up the ‘priest’ over the years and plans to leave the ‘priest’ there forever … in tribute to the veteran.

Isn’t it interesting how the man on the ATV appeared at just the right time to tell me the veteran’s story.

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