Ensuring the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wounded Warriors Treated to Stress-Free Alaska Hunt

When you’re in a combat zone, you must be fully prepared, fully outfitted and at full attention to survive the realities of war and successfully carry out your mission. Staff Sergeant Patrick Zeigler knows that all too well. He survived two tours in Iraq where many of his close friends didn’t. But imagine having “war” break out on your home base. That’s exactly what happened when Major Malik Nadal went on a shooting spree at Fort Hood, Texas, in 2009. When it was over, 13 soldiers were dead and more than two dozen more were wounded, including Zeigler.  

Three years later and eight brain surgeries later, the seven-year military vet found himself thousands of miles from home. Zeigler joined many fellow combat wounded and weary veterans for the second annual hunt for Alaska’s Healing Hearts. The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, along with other sponsors, stepped up to assist by providing outdoor gear, tree stands, tree harnesses, bear baiting supplies and other items needed for the hunt. The goal for the soldiers was to try to harvest bear on the rugged Alaska landscape near the small towns of Sutton and Willow.

“It’s great. We set up real nice on a ridge overlooking a whole basin area,” Zeigler told the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. “The scenery is probably the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in America.”

The outing was not just a “boys’ night out” hunt either. It was also for their families. Additional activities included ATV riding, games, canoeing and horseback riding--all designed to take place in a stress-free environment. Celebrities like Aaron Tippin, Chub Eastman and Jim Zumbo attended camp to provide cooking, cleaning, and fellowship.

Jim Zumbo (left), Jessica & Patrick Zeigler (right)

As Zeigler looks to the future, he is not alone. His wife Jessica remains at his side. While engaged, she rushed to his Fort Hood hospital bed and never left. A year and a half later, they married.

Patrick & Jessica (Frontiersman)

“I think she’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met in my life,” he told the Frontiersman. “To drop everything and be by my side like that. I can never pay her back. All I can do is love her.”

And that love will only grow because the Zeiglers are now new parents to a bouncing baby boy.

Here’s to you Staff Sgt. Zeigler, and to Jessica too! Thanks for your continuing service and sacrifice for our country.

Patrick, Jim Zumbo and others with Patrick's bear recently taken in North Carolina

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