When the men and women who serve our country in the military come home, in many cases life is not the same. Some have disabilities and can't do what they did before they went off to war. That's why a group of folks in eastern Lancaster County offer a select group of disabled local veterans a chance to go deer hunting.
Marine Corps veteran Rich Diller is deer hunting for the first time in nearly a decade. He says, "I haven't hunted since they pinned this leg straight. It's been nine years since I've been able to go out." But on this December morning the Vietnam war veteran is one of 15 area disabled military members getting a chance to hunt as part of the 4th annual Disabled Hunters program in Lancaster County.
Lanchester Landfill operators came up with the idea years ago, to help with a deer overcrowding problem. Dawn Nichols says, "It's part of our deer management. We had deer eating everything. Nothing was growing. They weren't healthy. Now we get a good number and they're healthy and it all works out for everybody."
The landfill operators have partnered with USDA Wildlife Services personnel to help get veterans into hunting spots around the landfill grounds and give them a great opportunity to harvest a deer. Zach Bair says, "A lot of these guys don't get out anymore because they are physically unable to get into the woods by themselves. So to give these guys that opportunity for us is just awesome."
Now in its forth year, three area veterans each day for five days are given this deer hunting opportunity. And during each of those days a small group of generous dedicated helpers walk miles through the woods and fields in an effort to push the deer toward the veteran hunters sitting in their blinds.
Virtually every veteran who spends time in one of the blinds gets a shot and bags a deer. For some like Army veteran Ralph Glass of Lancaster;who spent time fighting in Afghanistan, a doe means meat in the freezer for the winter months. "It's really good. It feels good. I think it's fantastic that they do this for the veterans. I really enjoyed the hunt for the first time doing that."
For the USDA folks it`s a small way to pay back our military members and say thanks. "It's amazing. It's just great. It's the least we can do to give back to these great veterans." says Bair. And for our military heroes like Rich Diller, for at least one day it`s a rare chance spend time in the woods, relax, and enjoy a day of hunting. Diller says. "It's just unbelievable to me. You know i just can't believe it. I just absolutely love it. Just to get out in the woods and have someone to help you move around. To get out in the woods and see movement again with people who like the sport."
The Pennsylvania Game Commission provides doe tags to the veterans to be used on the day of their hunt.