An effort begun a few years ago in Prescott, Arizona, to raise money and awareness to help meet the needs of injured veterans returning from the armed forces, is now bearing fruit in Montana. Buck Up for Wounded Warriors is a non-profit non-partisan organization founded in the spring of 2009 in Arizona to benefit wounded troops.
Rudy Smith, organizer of the Montana efforts, said that he was drawn into the affair after his son and some of his friends sponsored a very successful fundraiser which raised several thousand dollars at the Prescott 4th of July Rodeo, all of which was donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, a national organization dedicated to helping wounded veterans. Smith said that he had the idea of duplicating those efforts in Montana and his son said, “go for it.”
Smith said that they took the left over t-shirts from the Arizona event and sold them at the Ravalli County Fair as the first of many fundraising efforts aimed at providing wounded veterans with a trophy mule deer hunting experience in the wilds of Montana.
Operation Valor brings wounded veterans from all over the country together to share a “once in a lifetime” hunting experience with other participants who also share combat experience and resultant wounds and other challenges in reintegrating into society.
Smith said the fundraisers were successful and helped pay for seven seriously injured veterans to participate in Operation Valor last year. The hunts were conducted by well-known outfitter from the Fort Peck area, Carl Mann. All seven of the veterans who participated got their buck.
This past April four other veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) were treated to a fishing trip by Joe Cummings of Classic Journey Outfitters out of Huson.
Smith said that one of the soldiers said following the fishing trip that it was one of the first times that he wasn’t looking over his shoulder all the time and felt at peace.
“That was validation for our efforts,” said Smith. He said the comments made him feel that it was worth it.
Buck Up for Wounded Warriors is holding a first time ever fundraising dinner this Saturday, August 6 at the Hamilton Assembly of God Church at 601 Main St. Smith said the doors will open at 5 p.m., the colors will be paraded at 5:45 and dinner will be served at 6 p.m. There will be door prizes and a silent auction of donated items. Tickets are $25 each or $200 for a table for 8. Tickets may be purchased at Valley Drug and Variety in Stevensville, all the Farmers State Bank outlets in the valley, Bob Wards in Hamilton and Missoula, Sportsman’s Surplus, Stranahan’s Fly Shop and Sheafman Creek Winery. A rifle raffle is planned for Creamery Picnic and a Cooper Rifle donated by Harley Davidson will also be raffled in conjunction with the annual Freedom Ride. Buck Up for Wounded Warriors will also be participating in the military appreciation day at the Grizzly game.