Thursday, March 7, 2013

Brave Men

I am sure everyone has their own family reunion horror stories.  Well, horror may be a little harsh in describing the gatherings.   Although, after hearing the joke “What’s purple and hums?” from your Uncle Bob for the last 40 years of your life, horror may be the only genre that adequately embodies the thoughts running through your mind as to Uncle Bob’s demise.
I could easily throw a time or twelve that reunions got the best of me.  But my family reads this column so I better refrain from such hence a column may not make it to the paper next week.
There is one reunion I have become very fond of.  Over the last decade I have come to anticipate the Dixie Deer Classic with tremendous enthusiasm.  I have participated as a volunteer in various capacities over those years.  And believe it or not, it is very hard work.  But it does not include cleaning and drying the dishes afterwards so the work is worth it!
I have come to know many of the people that either volunteer or have their own booths selling their services or products.  I have gained a better understanding of the industry side of the outdoors.  I have met celebrities, pioneers, and walking encyclopedias of all things outdoors.
For me it has become a reunion of my extended family.  This family shares a bond and not blood.  Most will do anything for anyone.  Some will give everything for anybody.  Following the closing of the Dixie Deer Classic on Saturday I was introduced to just such a person at the North Carolina Bowhunters Banquet.
Last year, Richard Burkett sat in the same seats as this year.  Burkett attends the Classic each year and volunteers as a measurer, shoots his bow in the 3d tournament, and assists anywhere else he is needed.  To quote the speaker Saturday night, Burkett “has dedicated his time to bowhunting and his life to this country…He is a Marine, a husband, a father, and a bowhunter.”
Burkett was deployed just a few days after the Classic in 2012.  Just a month later, on April 11, 2012 to be exact, Burkett and 3 other crew members were on a training mission in Morocco.  The MV-22 Osprey that was carrying the 4 Marines was participating in a joint exercise with the Moroccan military called African Lion that included nearly 1000 Marines and another 200 U.S. military personnel.
Shortly after dropping off Marines near Cap Draa, the Osprey took off from the amphibious assault ship Iwo Jima.  Around 4pm the Osprey lost control, crashing, and killing 2 of the Marines.   All 4 of the Marines received immediate medical care on the ground, and were evacuated by KC-130 transport aircraft to a medical center in Germany.  Burkett survived.
Burkett went through more than 20 operations to save his legs.  Every tendon and ligament in his left leg was severed along with his right ankle.
But Burkett is a Marine.  Despite his severe injuries and the need to use an aid for walking, Burkett continues pursuing his passion.  Since the accident, Burkett successfully hunted and harvested several hogs, a deer, a bobcat, and a coyote, all with his bow.
Country music star Colton James presents Major Richard 'Train Wreck' Burkett
with the Golden Arrow Award
The North Carolina Bowhunters Association honored Burkett with the Golden Arrow Award.  The Golden Arrow is given to a bowhunter who has sustained physical challenges that would normally hinder someone from hunting yet still hunts with a bow.
Presenting the award to Burkett was country music star Colton James who followed with his song “Brave Men”, which was dedicated to Burkett and our military.  There were few dry eyes in the Kerr Scott Building.
And Sunday, Burkett again shot the 3d tournament.
For the record, Major Richard ‘Train Wreck’ Burkett never told the joke “what’s purple and hums?”  But I bet if your Uncle Bob was there he would let you know the answer is an electric grape.
 
 

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