Local businessman Phillip Roach was 10 years old when he became hooked on hunting.
Kip West, from Wakefield, Va., had such a fervor for the outdoors that he became a professional archer.
A few years ago, these men were brought together for one common cause – Keeping Warriors Outdoors.
On Jan. 15, 2005, West lost his best friend, Marine Sgt. Jayton Daniel Patterson. Patterson was serving in Iraq when he was killed in by an improvised explosive device, according to the KWO website.
“It broke my heart,” West said.
West didn’t want Patterson’s sacrifice to be in vain so he searched and brainstormed. Then KWO came to mind.
KWO is designed to get wounded soldiers out of the hospital and outside again, West said. He often makes trips to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
He asks the veterans about their families, friends – their lives. He said it doesn’t matter what their response is; he just wants to spend time with them.
Then he approaches 20 patients for the program. Those patients get new guns, bows and fishing poles, and they compete in a weeklong competition of skeet shooting, fishing and archery.
After this tournament, West and his organization take these servicemen “wherever they want to go” to hunt and fish.
“These guys get 19 new friends,” he said. “They become like family to me.”
KWO participated in two major events this year – Busch Country Goes Huntin’ and World Turkey Hunting Championship.
Roach helped film for both events through the “Huntin’ is Good” organization.
The two happenings featured country stars, turkey hunting and, of course, wounded warriors.
County Goes Huntin’ took place in Blakely, Ga., and Dothan, Ala., in late March, according to Roach.
Andy Griggs, Jeff Bates, Michael Ray and former MLB star Ryan Klesko were among the stars who showed up to perform and hunt, according to the Roughstock country news website. The turkey hunting extended over four days.
The hunts have to be documented. This is where Roach comes in. He has worked with “Huntin’ is Good” for three years. He goes with teams to film and guide them, while they search for the turkeys, he said.
What is filmed on the hunts is then broadcast on the “Huntin’ is Good” TV show.
Country Goes Huntin’ was started through the combined interests of hunting personality Sam Klement and country singer Rhett Akins, according to the event’s website.
It started in 2001 with proceeds going toward the charity of the artist’s choice. This year, KWO was the selected charity.
The big blowout took place in La Cynge, Kan., in mid-May – the World Turkey Hunting Championship, according to Roach.
Toby Keith headlined in the last day’s concert. Akins, country music songwriter Dallas Davidson and turkey hunting celebrities Preston Pittman and Mike Wolfe were also some in attendance, according to Roughstock.
The turkey hunting this time took place over two days with 32 teams participating, Roach said.
Due to his position with “Huntin’ is Good,” Roach was granted VIP access to the concerts.
“I have a blast doing it,” he said. “When you meet (the celebrities) at these things, they are in camouflage. They are just hanging out, ready to hunt. … It’s more of a laidback thing for them.”
Roach, for example, was able to speak with Keith while he hung out offstage.
“He even signed my red Solo cup,” Roach said.
This was the championship’s first year, thanks to country star Bobby Pinson, according to Roach.
Through his close work with KWO, Roach has bonded with most of the veterans.
Though the events are over for the year, he still has them listed on his phone and Facebook.
As for the general process, West seeks out those soldiers who really need the “most help.”
“They don’t have to be hunters,” West said.
Most of them don’t have archery experience, he said, but they learn through KWO.
For more information on the organization, visit www.helpkwo.org.
“Huntin’ is Good” was born out of the longtime friendship and hunting partners of Klement and hunting-based entrepreneur Harold Ross.
The “Huntin’ is Good” show airs on the Pursuit Channel. For more information on listings or to purchase merchandise, visit www.huntinisgoodtv.com or www.huntinisgood.com.
For more information on the turkey hunting happenings, visit www.countrygoeshuntin.com or www.world-turkey-hunting-championship.com.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and designs pages. She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.
Submitted Photo Busch Country Goes Huntin’ gets wounded warriors out for four days of turkey hunting. Pictured are KWO founder Kip West, Marine veteran Mike Morris and veteran Chris Smith.×
Submitted Photo Toby Keith performs at the World Turkey Hunting Championship. His microphone stand has a holder for his red Solo cup.×
Submitted Photo Army veteran Eric Edmundson, left, introducing country singer Toby Keith at this year’s World Turkey Hunting Championship. To help him out is songwriter and event organizer Bobby Pinson.×
Submitted Photo Dallas Davidson has written songs for artists like Lady Antebellum, Blake Shelton and Luke Bryan.×