By Jade Moldae
One of the ways HAVA helps in the healing process is getting wounded veterans reacquainted with the outdoors through guided hunts or long-range shooting opportunities.
For more than a decade now, Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) has been honoring our nation’s heroes in a multitude of ways. Guided hunts, Family Range Days and a successful Learn To Shoot Again (LTSA)division to support severely disabled veterans represent three core pillars of the HAVA mission.
“We are the veteran-support voice of the shooting sports industry who is committed to helping veterans recover from injury and are dedicated to the ongoing support these American heroes have earned in defense of freedom,” said Tom Taylor, HAVA chairman and executive director. “HAVA is in our 11th year of service to veterans and our sponsoring industry continues to increase their support levels.”
The organization has adopted a “behind the scenes” approach to serving wounded veterans, not seeking publicity or exposure for its efforts. Rather, HAVA has intentionally continued as a small organization of volunteers — minimizing overhead expenditures to maximize the benefits for the veteran. HAVA’s impact is sizable, especially when taking a look at these numbers: From 2008 to 2018, HAVA conducted over 170 different shooting, hunting and outdoor events throughout the U.S., serving more than 9,000 veterans from all branches of the Armed Forces and their families. While not touting its own achievements, HAVA’s impact has been so influential it recently received a noteworthy accolade from the U.S. Department of Defense.
In September, HAVA was recognized for its decade-plus of service to our nation’s heroes with the DoD’s Spirit of Hope Award. HAVA was nominated by Cmdr. Steven Macdonald, executive officer, Naval Sea Logistics Center (NSLC).
Macdonald selected HAVA because of the organization’s “dedication to raising awareness, increasing confidence and assisting injured men and women returning from military missions by reconnecting them with outdoor activities,” according to the press release announcing this honor.
The Spirit of Hope Award was established in 1997 based on the contributions made by entertainer Bob Hope to the military. The award is presented to individuals and organizations that exemplify the same qualities of generosity and patriotism Hope is renowned for.
“When you look at the 11-year history of HAVA providing support to our wounded and injured veterans, they fully embody the dedication and commitment Mr. Hope exhibited over his 50 years of service to our troops,” Macdonald said. “They are a great group of caring and dedicated people.”
“We are beyond humbled this grassroots, volunteer organization — with a mission of using active outdoor sports as a means to help with rehabilitation — has been selected for such a prestigious award,” Taylor stated. “It was never HAVA’s intention to pursue great numbers or awards, but simply to serve those who sacrificed so much in service to our country. We are truly honored to be a recipient of The Spirit of Hope Award.”
Sept. 28, HAVA representatives were presented with The Spirit of Hope Award in a ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.
HAVA Family range Days
During 2018, HAVA hosted three Family Range Days — serving hundreds of disabled veterans and their families.
June 16, the 7th Annual HAVA/ACADEMI Family Day took place at the ACADEMI training facility in Moyock, N.C. Over 300 disabled veterans, family members and volunteers attended the event and took part in eight stages of fire, including precision rifle, pistol, rifle, shotgun and the new Airbow category.
The 6th Annual HAVA/Rockcastle Family Day returned to the Rockcastle Shooting Center in Park City, Ky., Sept. 15, with over 200 in attendance.
Celebrating its eleventh year, the HAVA/SAPD National Family Day was held in San Antonio Oct. 20 at the San Antonio Police Academy. Nearly 400 disabled veterans, spouses, children and volunteers attended the event. A highlight of the day was an exhibition by professional shooter Daniel Horner, along with disabled shooters. There were six stages of fire at the event, plus a special-instruction stage hosted by the A Girl & A Gun organization and HAVA’s LTSA team.
“HAVA had a great day serving the attending disabled vets and their families entering our second decade of service to the San Antonio veteran community,” Taylor said. “NSSF had a film crew onsite and will shortly be producing a film to be available online and on social media outlets to show the breadth of the HAVA experience for veteran families. Special thanks goes to Chief Bill McManus of the San Antonio Police Department and his over 2,000 sworn officers and 800 civilian employees for their support of the HAVA Family Day each year.”
LTSA Expands Reach
In 2016, HAVA launched its Learn To Shoot Again division — led by Director Rick Cicero, a former 7th Special Operations Command sergeant and double amputee who overcame his injuries and learned to shoot again. LTSA provides individual shooter adaptive training for severely disabled military veterans and injured active-duty military who can no longer shoot conventionally due to their injuries.
“It’s one of the most rewarding things we’ve done,” Taylor shared.
Two years after its founding, LTSA continues to experience great success in broadening its impact.
“Expanding LTSA’s reach to more severely disabled veterans is our mission. We carry a message of hope and rehabilitation to handicapped veterans who need inspiration and training to again participate in the outdoor activities they once enjoyed,” Cicero said.
In June, LTSA partnered with the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Florida division to expand its reach to more disabled veterans and ranges across the Sunshine State. At the initial training event, 19 severely disabled veterans participated in pistol and transition drills at the Hernando County Shooting Complex.
“We are very impressed with the LTSA program and see this new LTSA/BSA relationship as a valuable addition for Scouts. Our program teaches support of the veteran community as a service commitment, and this linkage expands our connection to our military veteran heroes,” a local BSA spokesperson said.
Nov. 2018, HAVA announced the expansion of a new long-range shooter training program through LTSA. This new precision rifle program began in Leesburg, Fla, in Oct. 2018 with a full three-day class — training 11 injured veterans to shoot effectively out to 900 yards.
“Long-range shooting skills are just one of the lessons our LTSA instructors bring to these students, who deserve everything we can do to inspire and assist in their recovery,” Taylor lends. “The fact our instructors have each personally gone through the rehabilitation process after the loss of a limb or other severe injury is a real-life example for the student that recovery from tragedy is possible — and the best part of life may still be in their future. We believe our efforts can make the ultimate difference with a disabled veteran who might otherwise not be able to fulfill their long-term potential for happiness.”
(Editor’s Note: For more on the background of LTSA, take a look at last month’s issue. In his Personal Defense Market column Massad Ayoob sat down with Rick Cicero, who touched on LTSA’s formation, adaptive shooting techniques and how dealers can better serve wounded or disabled customers.)
Members of the LTSA team were on hand to facilitate instruction at the 2018 HAVA/SAPD Family Day.
Looking Ahead To 2019
As HAVA enters its twelfth year, its mission remains unchanged.
“HAVA has been an effort that would not have been possible had an entire industry not stood behind our mission with financial support, products and most importantly, so many volunteers,” Taylor said. “We will continue to honor and serve our nation’s heroes with the same fervor of the past decade.”
To learn more about HAVA and its programs, visit www.honoredveterans.org.
In Sept., HAVA was honored with the DoD’s Spirit of Hope Award in a ceremony at the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes. From left: Gregory J. Slavonic, assistant secretary of the Navy; Eva Carwile, HAVA military liaison; Tom Taylor, HAVA chairman and executive director; Heath Gunns, HAVA outreach manager; Rear Admiral Katherine A. McCabe, reserve director of military personnel, plans and policy and Cmdr. Steve Macdonald, NSLC executive officer.