Hunting trip's fellowship designed to aid wounded soldiers' recoveries

FLORIDA TODAY
R. Norman Moody

The camaraderie among wounded soldiers on a night hunt for alligators can serve as soothing therapy for the invisible wounds of war, veterans say.

The Brevard County Airboat Association will host a gator hunt tonight for eight soldiers, selected by the Wounded Warrior in Action Foundation.

“We’ll enjoy that camaraderie and work on those wounds that won’t heal in the hospital,” said Patrick Corcoran, an Army sergeant major who was critically wounded in Afghanistan and who will be among the hunters. “This is therapy for your soul.”

Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation serves Purple Heart recipients by providing outdoor sporting activities to honor their sacrifices and promote healing and wellness. The eight participants in tonight’s hunt come from different states.

The foundation organizes, in addition to the gator hunts, fishing outings, hunts for turkey, deer, duck and black bear. More that 100 wounded warriors have been on outings this year organized by the foundation, which is based in Apollo Beach.

The soldiers will be escorted from their hotel to the airboat association’s clubhouse off U.S. 192 near Camp Holly by more than 100 motorcyclists from American Legion Riders. There they will participate in a brief ceremony and lunch before heading off for the hunting camp around 3 p.m.

Mike Tipton, a member of the Brevard County Airboat Association, said it was a great opportunity to give back to the soldiers who have sacrificed so much.

“I’m really excited about being a part of this,” Tipton said. “It makes me realize how blessed I am.”

Corcoran, 44, who lives with his wife and two children in Orange County, is participating in an alligator hunt for the first time. Healso helped to coordinate the event.

“I’m tickled to no end to be able to participate,” said Cocoran, who was left paralyzed from the waist down after a roadside bomb exploded under his vehicle on Aug. 13, 2009, in Afghanistan. “It’s a valuable part of therapy.”

Corcoran suffered injuries to his spine, in addition to broken legs, pelvis and arm. Five days after the attack, he said he woke up in Germany, spent months at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital in Tampa.

Corcoran, who has been in the Army for more than 27 years and expects to be medically discharged in coming months, said he’s looking foward to the adventure of the alligator hunt.

“It’s stalking, sneaking under the cover of darkness,” he said. “That’s what we’re used to.”

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