Dean Crom and Mike Thun, owners of Big Water Outdoors Guide Service, are the kind of American sportsmen we could use a few more of. Every year they host an event that pays tribute to our veterans by taking them duck hunting. And Crom and Thun chose a very clever name for the Green Bay diver hunt: Red, White and Bluebill.
According to the Journal Sentinel, six veterans had the opportunity to hunt from layout boats at this year’s event: U.S. Army veterans Joe Mershon, 28; Katey Tess, 31; Josh Walker, 35; and Dave Weber, 65; and Marine veterans Randy Gordon, 31; and Ty Schleppenbach.
Here’s how Paul Smith, outdoors editor for the Journal Sentinel, described one American hero’s experience:
"This feels familiar," Walker said as he squeezed into a layout boat in the dark. The 6-foot-3, 280-pound former infantryman was no stranger to vehicles and equipment built for smaller soldiers.
He also exclaimed how good it felt.
"Really cool to get to try this," Walker said.
Walker served in the Army from 1999 to 2007. During a tour in Iraq, his vehicle was "blown up" by an improvised explosive device.
He couldn't walk for two years; he couldn't write for another year after that.
As Walker is handed his shotgun and the mother ship departs, someone tells him to "shoot straight."
"I better, I'm infantry," Walker said.
The morning began with action-packed gunning, as dozens of birds—bluebills especially, but also redheads and buffleheads—poured in to the decoys. Two Marines shot six ducks in the first 30 minutes from their double layout, but as the morning wore on the action slowed. No matter. Crom and Thun had prepared a shore lunch. And the veterans understood the true spirit of waterfowling.
“It's not about how many ducks we get," Army veteran Tess told the Journal Sentinel. "It's about the experience. This was outstanding."