A force for good: Duck hunting builds bonds of brotherhood

by Erica Goodwin

War is fought on the front lines. Soldiers make sacrifices. They witness unspeakable tragedy. They experience death and destruction in the name of liberty and justice.

But often, the battlefield of the mind is much harder to fight after they return home.

After serving in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1990, retired Brigadier General Jim Daniel had the vision to create an ultimate experience for war-torn soldiers. Understanding the great needs of combat veterans, he founded Operation Wounded Warrior Support (OWWS).

With only one paid employee, the 501(c)3 organization operates on donations and a squad of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about its mission — to provide “compassionate healing support to our nation’s combat injured veterans” of the 9/11 generation.

The veterans are an elite group of soldiers. As Purple Heart recipients, they served in the U.S. Army’s Special Operations Forces. While most of the participants are Army Rangers, OWWS also welcomes Navy Seals veterans and other Special Forces members.

Restoration comes during duck season when Jim and his wife, Julia Ann, welcome dozens of soldiers to their home — the “Duck House” — in Bald Knob and Ranger Base Darby house in Biscoe. After a warm reception to Arkansas, the Rangers enjoy a world-class duck hunting adventure.

“We are a bare bones organization,” Jim said. “Even without a staff, the expenses for operating the organization run right around $100,000 per year. OWWS pays for all the travel fees, transportation, lodging and food for each soldier. Also, we cover the cost for everything they need for a successful hunt. We provide the clothing, guns, shells and waders.”

An avid duck hunter himself, Jim’s vision for OWWS is to provide guidance and mentorship for the veterans. Through spending time in the duck blind, gathering during meals and sitting around the campfire in the evenings, the men open up to share war stories with their comrades.

Many of these service members face extreme challenges when they return home and try to step back into their lives, Jim says. This is intensified when they have physical injuries, which can make it difficult to find jobs. Once an injured veteran is released from the hospital or rehabilitation, they often have to move and find housing, employment and medical care.

As the most highly decorated combat veteran in Arkansas, OWWS board member Michael McCarty can also relate to the soldiers. He is a retired Army first lieutenant.

“What makes us unique is not only in the duck hunts that we provide but more in the compassion, hospitality and appreciation that our volunteers show these soldiers,” McCarty said. “We try to convey through our actions and interactions that the sacrifices these soldiers and their families make are not going without notice.

“No matter how severe their injuries and no matter how traumatic the horrors they have experienced, they still have much to contribute to society. Our rural Arkansas communities are appreciative and supportive, and they realize that the freedoms we enjoy are made possible by these soldiers.”

According to Jim Daniel, OWWS is incredibly grateful to the generosity of companies and individuals both in Arkansas and beyond the Natural State. Their contributions to OWWS are a way of expressing appreciation for these brave soldiers who defend our freedom.

One such contributor is Jason Miller, owner of Tig Communications in Greenbrier. He is a champion for OWWS and is currently planning to host a dinner next month to benefit the organization’s operational expenses, as well as its scholarship program.

For more details about OWWS, visit OperationWoundedWarriorSupport.org.