Wounded veterans heal by hunting in Pennsylvania
Posted November 9, 2017 10:41 a.m. EST
OSWAYO, POTTER COUNTY, PA — Wounded veterans get the chance to hunt again in one part of Pennsylvania. A non-profit organization Leek Hunting and Mountain Preserve (LEEK) makes it possible.
"Sitting in a blind or tree stand is a therapy that's very hard to explain. Nobody else can give it to me," said Scott Nechay of Jupiter, Florida. "It's hunt camp. There's still camaraderie in it, but it's also something different when every one of you have been in the military."
Nechay is a retired marine who served in Afghanistan. He suffers from PTSD, multiple traumatic brain injuries, a broken hand, and has issues just getting around. Hunting is his form of therapy. Nechay is able to do what he loves, harvest deer, because of LEEK. Fox 43 spent an entire day with the organization in Oswayo, learning just how hunting heals our wounded veterans.
"To go out on a hunt and be with other veterans - that's the bottle line. That's the experience," added Nechay.
It's an early start to the day. There's morning prayer and a big breakfast. Then, it's time for the veterans to gear up.
Dressed in camo and neon orange, the veterans are ready to go. They're each allowed to shoot one doe with their muzzle loaders.
Vehicles are loaded. Our crew goes with Nechay and Ken Martin. He's a Vietnam War Veteran. We hop in the car and drive to private land where we'll hunt, spotting deer before we even get to the blind.
"We're good to go anytime here, Scott," said Martin.
Once 7 a.m. hits, Nechay's allowed to shoot. Martin just has to give the okay. As the sun rises, multiple doe emerge from the woods. Nechay swears he can make a 200 yard shot, but Martin says to wait.
7:24 a.m., and there's a deer looking right at us...
Only 25 minutes into the first morning sit, Nechay shoots a doe from less than 50 yards a way.
Now, it's time to find her.
Nechay's happy to have a harvest. Pictures with the doe, another prayer to bless the catch, and it's time to go back to camp for lunch.
"At home, I don't have so many vet friends so I can come here, and I can release so to speak. These guys speak my language," said Mike Geib, a Gulf War Veteran from Carlisle.
Hunting helps Geib deal with PTSD and Gulf War Syndrome.
"I'm closest to God. I'm closest to nature. I love being in the woods. It's my best mental therapy," added Geib.
Many of the veterans say the transition from military to normal life is hard. Add mental and physical disabilities, it can be extremely difficult.
"This helps my PTSD the most. My going hunting, whether it's here or anywhere else," explained Geib.
Some of them say it's too expensive to go hunting on their own, but LEEK makes it possible, sponsoring vets and paying for the trip.
"They all have things in common, their service to the country, their sacrifice, and their injuries that they have," said Martin.
"Some of them inside have been blown out of the back of the truck have been blown up inside a vehicle..." said Ed Fisher, the Founder of LEEK, also from York County.
"So many people think freedom is free, and it is not free. If you came to Leek, you would see the scars that our soldiers carry," said Kate Fisher, Co-Founder of LEEK.
Nechay says each time he hunts, his battle scars begin to disappear.
"For some people that deal with the anxiety of being constantly hyper vigilant, and having that constantly process of fear, people are able to let it down a little bit, and to let it down a little bit is to gain a good step towards being able to let go of it," explained Nechay.
Many veterans at LEEK say they'll never be normal. They say they have to find a new normal: hunting and being surrounded by fellow warriors helps do that. With every laugh, story, and shot, recovery begins.
LEEK runs off donations and sponsors.