"We found ourselves looking upon a familiar sight. We were home. How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on ... when in your heart you begin to understand ... there is no going back? There are some things that time cannot mend... some hurts that go too deep ... that have taken hold."
After more than 11 years of fighting the war in Afghanistan and almost 10 years of fighting the war in Iraq, returning soldiers can understand Baggins' plight. More than 6,600 soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen have died in the longest sustained conflicts by an all-volunteer force. Over 50,000 have returned home with combat-sustained injuries. As the conflicts continue to enter their final phases with President Barack Obama pledging to return all forces home by 2014, the focus continues to shift to caring for soldiers returning home. This past week, the Forked Deer Longbeards, the Dyer County Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation in conjunction with Wounded Warriors sponsored 10 soldiers from Fort Campbell, Ky. to come to Dyersburg for a two-day duck-hunting trip.
The soldiers arrived in Dyersburg on Tuesday, Dec. 11 and were immediately treated to Southern hospitality with the Sleep Inn offering significantly reduced accommodations followed by Lupo's Restaurant providing that evening's meal at no charge to the soldiers.
"It takes a lot of people to put on an event like this," said Hall, who has coordinated hunting trips for soldiers for the last four years.
The fun was just beginning for the soldiers, who would spend the next two mornings in a duck blind enjoying each other's company and leaving the world behind them. For the first time since Hall has been coordinating the hunting trips for soldiers, the group included two women: Stacie Vandrie of Union City, Tenn. and Kristen Steakley, of Mt. Juliet, Tenn. Together the 10 soldiers nabbed 10 ducks on the first morning and 15 the second morning. Their smiles at the end of each morning said it all.
The soldiers also received a traditional Southern cooked meal courtesy of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who cooked and served the soldiers meal, with the help of local sponsors: Kroger, RSVP and Neil's Barbecue. In addition, Girl Scout Junior Troop 40276 provided the evening's entertainment as they sang Christmas carols to the soldiers while they ate. The DAR and the NWTF also showered the soldiers with a variety of gifts during the meal.
Hall says that he is blessed that God gave him the wisdom and desire to coordinate events like this, but he says they would not be possible without the generosity of a lot of sponsors such as: Forked Deer Longbeards, NWTF Tennessee State Chapter, TWRA, Twin Rivers Guide Service, Tajmahal Duck Blind, Dyersburg Mayor John Holden, Dyer County Mayor Richard Hill, Dyer County Sheriff's Department, Benelli USA, Outer Limits Power Sports, Lowery's Body Shop and Wrecker Service and Drake Water Fowl.
"These trips mean a lot to the soldiers," said Hall. "They are just awesome people and are so deserving of everything that we can give them."