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


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Honoring an American Hero for His Service, Sacrifice

The year was 1967. Like so many of his young fellow Americans, Richard Villareal found himself far from home. He voluntarily enlisted in the Army to serve his country in Vietnam.

On one particular day, Sergeant Villareal was the point man leading his unit. He stepped on a land mine that destroyed the lower part of his right leg, his left arm below the elbow and the trigger finger on his right hand. The injuries ravaged his body, tested his mind and earned him a Purple Heart for valor.

Looking for elk on Fort Hunter Liggett
To this day, Villareal still has shrapnel in his body. He continually deals with the challenge of swelling in his stump and fitting prosthetics that seemed to change over time. He also has phantom pains that grow from bad to worse even though there is nothing he can do to deal with a pain that is not there.

Despite those physical and mental challenges, Villareal lives on. He serves as the president of RE/MAX Real Estate in Santa Maria, California. He also loves the outdoors and is a life member of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 

This past March, Lacy Harber and wife Dorothy attended the RMEF Big Game Banquet in Fresno. Lacy paid $7,500 to purchase a hunt for Villareal at Fort Hunter Liggett (FHL) located approximately 130 miles south of San Jose. He then bought his own tag for an additional $20,000. (The money raised from the sale of the tags goes directly to RMEF which is allocated back onto the ground at FHL for the abatement of noxious weeds and the installation of water guzzlers in the dry and arid climate of California’s Central Coast.) 

Lacy Harber and his Tule elk
“Lacy and Dorothy are avid hunters and were proud to provide this opportunity for Richard as they had a good friend who served in Vietnam,” said Michael Friedenberg, RMEF major gift officer who also accompanied the hunting party. “They express their gratitude to all men and women of the armed forces whenever they can.”

The hunt took part in August during the “heat” of summer—and that in itself is a major understatement. Temperatures hovered at or above the 100 degree mark but that didn’t stop Villareal. He overcame the sun, the heat and the rugged terrain to take by a blacktail deer and a 7x7 Tule elk that scores more than 300.

Nick Passmore, Richard Villareal and Richard's son Ryan
(left to right)
“I am humbled by the opportunity to help veterans like Richard get out into the field and enjoy a favorite past-time—hunting. Richard is an avid elk hunter and he is willing to do what it takes to pursue his game. Even with challenges of hiking on rough terrain and during hot days of 100 degrees plus Richard has shown why he withstands the challenges he faces. He is a great guy and I have made a new friend. It’s always great to know heroes like this man who sacrificed for our country so we can enjoy the freedom we have,” said Friedenberg. “Even more, it was amazing to see the kind spirit of great folks like Dorothy and Lacy Harber who gave generously so that Richard and his guests could enjoy this hunt of a lifetime.“ 

A special thank you goes out to all who helped make the hunt a success—Don Nead, Lou Prusinovski, Steven Adam, Glen McMurtry, Jim Kilber, Rob Pike and Col. Donna Williams, Garrison Commander over the personnel of Fort Hunter Liggett, US Army Combat Support Training Center.

Richard poses with his 7x7 Tule elk

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