Social Media/Wounded Warrior/Guest Article by Angelo Baio

Priorities! We all have them, and we all do it different. Several years ago I was introduced to the outdoors, and it kind of became an addiction. My thoughts always dwell ed on hunting and the outdoors. As life happens you very quickly learn that everything has its limits, and being a family man, I was well aware that my family and kids would always come first. This at times can impact my hunting and I will admit, at first I held a bit of spite whenever something would conflict with my time in the outdoors. Maturity cures that mindset and sometimes it is like a button is pushed, and all of a sudden you understand what is important. These times are precious and we as hunters have to realize that although hunting is very important, we have to be thankful for our time afield, and those who make that time possible.  We all have to do our part to say thanks to the men and women who protect our freedoms and make our time in the woods possible. It’s time to give a little back, and right now and through the use of social media I have discovered a group of people that are doing just that.

ENTER: The Wounded Warrior Project.

First and foremost I would like to state that social media has been a great way for me to share my thoughts and experiences, and some really great things have been made possible because of these platforms. The connections alone are priceless. One connection I would like to introduce to you today, Angelo Baio of North Patchogue, Ny. Angelo works for Sudden Impact Outdoors and is a huge part of the Wounded Warrior program. Angelo has provided Ny Huntography with a guest article he recently wrote, and it is my honor my, privilege, and my duty to share this with you all today. 

Mission Possible

By Angelo Baio

In everyone’s life there is a time in which destiny and everyday life comes together.  For me, it was a life’s changing event and it occurred on an Alaskan Black Bear hunt in June 2012. 

Among the many benefits of an adventure hunt I always enjoy meeting new people.  These hunts mix folks together from all walks of life and invigorate the discussions around the camp fire.  During my down time in camp I was introduced to Rob, an assistant guide and retired Green Beret Colonel.   Throughout the week it was mentioned that Rob is a long time retiree from the Special Forces but I could see he was still at the top of his game.  Although Rob and I hunted only one time that week, each day around camp and at meals I came to know him more.

Rob and I soon became friends and although he didn’t talk much about himself and his wartime experiences we did talk about how he cooperates with groups like the Special Forces Association (Chapter 28 known as the Devils Brigade Chapter) and his good friend former president of the Devils Brigade retired Colonel Ike Slaughter.  Thorough their efforts they bring wounded soldiers on adventures to aid in their mental healing process.  That’s when it struck me, as a staff member of a hunting show (Sudden Impact Outdoors with Dave Lusk)  I have the means to help someone come out and enjoy one of these adventures.   I vowed to myself quietly that when I return home from Alaska this would be my next life’s challenge.  

Through Rob and Ike I was introduced to the Green Beret Foundation and its Director Ms. Jen Paquette. Ms. Paquette has served as Executive Director of the Green Beret Foundation since August of 2011 and manages critical aspects of day-to-day operations including strategic planning, building and maintaining donor relationships, coordination of services with USSOCOM Care Coalition, and delivering those services to Green Berets and their families.  When I spoke with her on the phone she immediately thought of a person who would be perfect for this event and placed me in a position I needed to be to launch the project immediately.  It was clear that my initial contacts brought me to the threshold of an adventure but I now needed help from the civilian side to make this happen.

I thought that the civilian end would be a chore as financial times and troubles have distracted people from important aspects of life such as the enjoyment of the outdoors with our friends and family.  Well, I couldn’t be further from the truth and was pleasantly surprised when only at the initial contacts I was flooded with the cooperation from Cabelas event coordinator Harold Luther of the Hamburg Pennsylvania store, Winchester Ammo’s Jason Gilbertson, Greg Dishinat of Deer Haven Lake Lodge of Shickshinny PA and most of all the executive producer of Sudden Impact Outdoors TV, Mr. Dave Lusk.

After realizing this event was well on its way towards success Ms. Paquette introduced me to Special Forces Chief Warrant Officer 3 Shane Gandy.  When I made my first call to Shane I knew right away that he was the perfect person for this event.  Although he briefly told me he was going through some significant corrective surgeries and therapy for his injuries, he was excited at the chance to get back to the outdoors and go hunting again.  Shane explained that as soon as he heard of the idea he immediately was drawn back to times in his past where preparing and the anticipation of the hunt brought back all those happy times and memories he had stored away.  He claimed it to be the perfect distraction.

Shane was also quite brave in accepting what fate had delivered as he suffered significant injuries in March of 2010 while on an assignment and driving in a HUMMWV (humvee) in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when his truck was struck by the explosion of 160 pounds of buried homemade explosives (IED).  Luckily, he says, no was killed but Shane received the brunt of the explosive force right under his seat in the HUMMWV.  The ferocity of the blast left a huge crater and flipped the vehicle into a twisted mass of steel causing significant injury to Shane and to a lesser extent to three other American team mates.  Shane explains had it not been for the vehicle and its construction he no doubt would had been killed.

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Shane explains that even after twenty six surgeries and months of therapy, the “best medicine I have had was being able to go back to my unit.” Everyone that was introduced to Shane immediately seen that his resolve to heal and to be an active and pertinent part of the success of his mission and continues to this day.  Not unlike that of my friend Rob, it seems to be a theme for these special men and is in the fabric of their being and continues long after leaving service.    I might also add that during our hunt Shane did tell me that he was equally excited that and he and his wife are expecting their first child, a boy this coming January and that he can’t wait to introduce him to the outdoors as well.Introductions were done, the hunt was planned and logistic coordination with the Green Beret Foundations Executive Assistant Angie Fennen helped settle the dust and off to Pennsylvania we went.  I drove to pick up Shane at the airport and thought this was in the bag.  While I’m sitting in the lobby waiting for arrivals I realized I was nervous, I was actually going to have a real American hero in my truck.  I met a woman in the lobby waiting for her son and she asked why I had a video camera.  When I told her about Shane she almost forgot what she was doing and was more excited to meet Shane than pick up her son. We were a greeting party of two.

Shane makes his way down the arrival isle and it was like meeting an old friend.  I never seen him before but he had no problem picking me out, the guy with a camo hat and a camera in his hand standing next to a women who was clapping.  We get into the truck and head back to the hotel for a surprise meet and greet at the Cabelas store the next day.  This of course was a complete surprise to Shane and he had no forewarning.

The next morning after breakfast we head over to the Cabelas and pull up to the massive wooden entrance doors.  The doors swing open and Shane is met by a greeter and at least fifty Cabelas employees lining a red carpet with red and white balloons in the foyer.  The Cabelas coordinator Harold Luther, Cabelas General Manger Michael Boldrick, Cabelas Manager Matt Burtch and Sudden Impact Producer Dave Lusk are at the end of the receiving line but he has a hard time reaching it as employees rush him to shake his hand and hug him and express their gratitude for his service.  This went on for what seemed an eternity as even customers at the opposite end of this gargantuan store came over to the commotion wanting to meet Shane.  I also witnessed some folks proclaim to Shane their time in the service, establishing that bond, and how proud they were of him.  Shane was clearly moved by this and if for nothing else I felt a sense of satisfaction; I almost completed my mission.

The generosity by the Cabelas team was over whelming even to me.  Shane was given a celebrities status tour of the store as if he just bought the place.  I followed behind with the others as store staff were asking me continuously if they were doing enough.  Being the street wise New Yorker that I am I leveraged the opportunity to speak for Shane who could hardly talk other than saying,” I don’t deserve this”, over and over again.  In my mind, he did.   

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Left to right Harold Luther, Shane Gandy Matt Burtch , Mike Boldrick

The folks at Winchester were just as appreciative of Shane when I explained that he was planning on introducing his wife to guns and hunting.  He planned on training her on a 22 caliber rifle and hopefully to get her to move up a caliber or two and maybe even go hunting with him.  Jason from Winchester seized the moment and provided Shane with a small token of their appreciation with a gift of rifle ammunition to fast track his wife’s new found hobby she will share with her husband.

In my opinion a company is a sum of its parts, the most important being its people.  Clearly Cabela’s and Winchester have the right people.

The next day we were off to Deer Haven Lake Lodge for a whitetail deer hunt.  We pulled up to the lodge which is situated in a picturesque portion of north eastern Pennsylvania I knew immediately this was going to be an exciting and invigorating hunt for Shane.  We pulled around the winding drive leading to the lodge and found a building that sits over a serene pond where its calm waters reflected the gold, red and green autumn colors of the leaves.  It made a post card picture impression on us.   The lodge was  built by Greg and his construction company.  In addition to contracting, Greg has been managing deer for over nine years and only recently started offering hunts on his private ranch styled property.

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When I first contacted Greg he expressed that although he is new in offering hunts he was very excited about the opportunity to participate in this event.  That was made clear when we arrived as his wife JoAnn and his daughter Nicole treated us like family.  Everyone at the ranch did their best to make the event memorable and if it were not for the expert help of guides Jeff Dishinat (Greg’s brother) and Josh Haddinger it may not had gone as smoothly as it did.  We also were happy to have on hand Nashville country music sensation CJ Garton, a friend of the Dishinat family, who came by to share in the event and add a little fun and entertainment.

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                                                                      L to R, CJ Garton, Nicole Dishinat Shane Gandy

 

Finally, came the first day of the hunt and the portion Shane was chewing at the bit to get to.  While on stand and sitting in the comfortable hand built wood blinds Dave Lusk, Greg and Shane sat peering out the small openings overlooking expertly manicured food plots in front of them.  Deer began to filter into the fields and soon there were bucks before them.  Shane was found himself unsure with what to do as there were more than one buck in the field and he wasn’t sure which he should take.  Looking for advice he turned to Greg who just smiled and told him to choose which ever deer he wants.  Dave told me that’s when you could notice the personality change as Shane turned from observer to hunter.  Shane picked a wonderful whitetail deer and took him in one expertly placed shot.  After pictures and scoring the deer was measured at around 183 inches.

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There were plenty of high fives and picture taking when it was all said and done and the end of this event found one happy hunter.  So it seems it was a success and Shane expressed he had a wonderful time.  I then realized that it I may need to do this again as there are many more who could benefit just as much.

 

I would like to thank Angelo for his article, and please check out the links in this post to find out more about Angelo, The Wounded Warrior Project, as well as sudden impact outdoors. You also can contact Angelo on Facebook through this link. Friend him and send him a message. He is an incredible person and a great friend, and I want to thank him for sharing this article with me and the NY Huntography Audience.

It’s time to head out and see if I can score on some tasty back straps.

Later,

Mike

 

 

 

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