In February, Sergeant Major
David G. Santos (Airborne-Ranger), First Sergeant Al Castillo (Airborne-Ranger), and Staff Sergeant Clint Vance (Airborne), all retired from the U.S. Army with multiple tours each in Iraq and Afghanistan, spent a well-earned weekend at the Geiger Farms Hunting & Social Club in Geiger, Alabama to hunt West Alabama whitetails, gorge on steaks, and relax with some Tennessee and Kentucky “brown water.” Their gratitude was immediate and effusive, and what was scheduled as a one-night event evolved into a full weekend.
Our members hatched the idea of hosting a hunt for veterans wounded in combat. Primarily, it was to reward the soldiers, but we also wanted to give our sons first-hand exposure to men who stand on the line, stare evil in the face, and protect us from those who are dedicated to destroying our way of life.
For the trio of soldiers, their duty came with a cost. On October 2, 2010, Castillo was on patrol in Paktika Province, Afghanistan when four shots from an enemy sniper ripped through his torso. In true Ranger fashion, after major surgery and a short recovery period, Castillo went AWOL from an Army hospital to return to his Ranger battalion. Santos and Vance served together and had their own harrowing experiences. Each survived multiple IED attacks, many of which were hidden in trash heaps and animal carcasses along the roadside. In one vicious gun battle, their lives were saved by a higher power—namely Kiowa Warrior helicopter gunships—unleashing the hounds of hell on the Taliban fighters who had them pinned in an inescapable crossfire. Only minutes before the arrival of the choppers, Santos wondered aloud, “So this is how it ends.”
Geiger Farms member Hank Lawson remarked, “When we were able to pry battlefield stories from these men, our sons sat transfixed, as did we. There were no noses in iPhones the entire weekend—a milestone in itself.”
Unfortunately, none of our soldiers got a shot at a trophy deer that weekend, but it won’t be their last chance. As David Hufham promised, “We are committed to making this an annual event.” Allen Estes added, “Our hope is that other hunting camps will follow
our lead, host similar outings, and
make a deliberate effort to reward our troops.” Geiger members are exploring
a proposal to expand the Youth Hunting Weekend (the weekend prior to Opening Day of deer season) to include wounded veterans. As member Sean Shirley noted, “We were honored to host these heroes. They’ve earned it, and much more.”