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Minnesota National Guard
Veterans reclaim memories of the hunt in Hugo

Hunting to many people isn't just about the hunt It's making memories During deployments those memories can fade a little Fading memories of the early morning prep, the chilly mornings warmed up by coffee, the anticipation of the hunt The fading recollections of the flutter of pheasant taking off as the dogs flush them from the brush These are all memories that you will never forget They may get a little fuzzy and fade just a little as you deploy to far off lands, but you never forget The Beyond the Ribbon Networks of Hugo and Stillwater helped bring these memories back to full vividness Oct 20 and 21 during their Welcome Home the Troops pheasant hunt at Wild Wings of Oneka Hunt Club in Hugo, Minn

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Mike Polhena, former chairman, Stillwater Yellow Ribbon and Chuck Haas, Hugo Yellow Ribbon Network chairman were on a goose and duck hunting trip hunting in 2009 and got to thinking about Service members that were deployed and didn't get a chance to hunt

"We were thinking about how fortunate we are to be able to be hunting while all our Service members were deployed to Iraq at the time," Said Polhena

Hugo and Stillwater Yellow Ribbon Networks banned together with Wild Wings of Oneka to organize and staff the first event in 2010

"The first hunt we had was when the Red Bulls got back from Basra Iraq," said Pohlena "That hunt there was about 100 people and we raised about $25,000 We decided to make it bigger and better when the Red Bulls got back this time but we weren't getting enough registrations and decided to open it up for anyone that served our country and gotten back from deployments in the last few years"

The hunt was still looking for sponsors and Service members for this year's hunt when they decided to be a guest on Minnesota Military Radio with Tom Lyons

"We broadcast it far and wide and received a lot of individual and business sponsors," said Polhena "We were really fortunate to get sponsorships from Minn, ND, SD and even other states"

The hunt ended up with over $50,000 in sponsorship from 118 individuals and business and 187 Service members hunted

"The really neat thing about the hunt this year is it was all different branches of the military There was National Guard, Navy, Air Force and even some Marines hunting this weekend," said Mike Polhena "It was a really good cross section of individuals"

"It was fantastic, there were a lot of smiles and a lot of happy Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Coast Guard and Marines," beamed Haas "The yellow ribbon reaches out to everyone Some of the sponsors got to hunt with the Service members and they thought it was the greatest"

The day included a round of sporting clay shooting and a wild game dinner The hunt also included a guide, hunting dogs, ammo, a Red Bull hunting cap and the birds were cleaned and packed before the hunters took them home

"The Wild Wings Veteran Hunt was the best hunting experience ever!" said Capt John Hobot, Minnesota National Guard "We left the field with 20 pheasants and a chukar red leg partridge, had a wonderful lunch, shot 50 sporting clays and watched the Vikes somehow beat the Cardinals What more could a guy ask for on a Sunday? What a great day"

"We have the privilege to hunt and be in the field and these Service members have given up so much up for us that we decided it was important to give some thing back," said Haas "The relationships you build on these hunts are the best and this was a 'thank you' we can give back for the Service members, for their sacrifices for us All the military members were happy, the guides that donated their time felt good about it and the sponsors were delighted and happy to meet the hunters Everyone came away feeling really good and happy"

"To see the Servicemember spend some time with their buddies they served with was also a definite plus," Haas continued "Everyone appreciates it and that was the best part of it Somehow this makes a small payment on the large debt of gratitude We had such a fantastic and robust sponsor contribution we are going to do a third hunt in December for another 60 Service members"

For more information on the December 15 hunt contact Chuck Haas at CharlesHaas27@gmailcom or 651-247-0354

Oct 20, 2012
By Sgt John Angelo
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs

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