Wounded Warrior Alligator Hunt
The AW2 Blog
AW2 Veteran Derek L. Duplisea
Wounded Warrior Alligator Hunt
I received an email in my AKO account from LTC (Retired) John McDaniel the first week of September inviting me to northern Florida for an alligator hunt. John is a close friend of my old squadron commander, COL Art Kandarian, who connected us through email a few months ago. John is the founder of the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation- a non-profit organization that provides Purple Heart recipients with world-class sportsmen activities.
AW2 Veterans participate in alligator hunt.
The hunt was set for 20 September. John had also invited two other Wounded Warriors – CPL Brian Knapp, an active duty Marine and fellow AW2 Veteran, SGT (Retired) Robert Leonard. All three of us arrived late Saturday night and met John at the Jacksonville International Airport and after a short ride to our hotel, we were treated to freshly cooked fried alligator meat. After introductions, we chatted for a while and told war and hunting stories then headed to bed. It was going to be a busy day on Sunday.
The next morning we drove down to Lake Lochloosa outside of Gainesville and met up for a large BBQ lunch with the Airboat Association and our guides for the hunt. We enjoyed some good old fashioned Southern Hospitality and food (more gator meat!). Then we were treated to Airboats rides on the lake and through the marshes.
Around 5:00 pm we started to get ready for the hunt – prepping our harpoons, bows and Airboats – kind of reminded me of doing Pre Combat Checks before a mission. When the sun went done, we hit the lake looking for alligators.
It was a great time had by all. The guides were great, the pilots were awesome and we saw plenty of gators. It was a different kind of hunt, having to get up close and personal with the prey. But we quickly learned the art of the harpoon and alligator bow hunting and all three of us netted alligators from 3.5 feet to 6 feet.
Because of the selfless efforts of one retired Ranger Lieutenant Colonel, three of America’s Heroes got to enjoy a special kind of trip. I’m not just talking about the hunt. The best part of the weekend was getting to know two other Wounded Warriors and hearing their stories. And to top that off was the countless “Thank You” comments from the men and women who made this all possible for us.
The true Hero that weekend was John McDaniel. He did not have to start an organization to help our wounded heroes, he did not have to contact each and every one of us personally to invite us to Florida, he did not have to pick us up at the airport and lodge us, he did not have to take care of organizing such an event but he did. He does this for the love of the Soldier, Marine, Airmen and Sailor who bled for their Flag and Country. True leaders take care of their Soldiers no matter the price and the Ranger motto of “Never leave a fallen comrade” are words that epitomize such a man as John.
Thanks John for the unforgettable memories!