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Operation Good Will for MN veterans
Before he entered the Army, Jack Zimmerman, 23, of Cleveland, like so many military men and women, was passionate about the outdoors.
Things changed when he deployed to Afghanistan with the 101st Airborne Division 2/502 in June, 2010. On March 9, 2011, Zimmerman stepped on an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The blast took both of his legs and three fingers on his right hand, the one he uses to hold his hunting rifle.
Zimmerman, along with 50 other veterans from around Minnesota, returned to the outdoors on Saturday, March 23, for the 5th annual Charlie’s Upland Pheasant and Sporting Clay Shoot for Minnesota’s HEROES. The event was free of charge for veterans who have been deployed and returned from serving abroad in the past two years.
The goodwill outing came to the veterans thanks to Stacy Dvorak, who works year round for the annual event that gives combat veterans an all-expense-paid morning of a hearty breakfast, pheasant hunting with guides, a lunch of BBQ ribs, 12 stations of sporting clays, and a silent auction. She takes care of everything -- the shells, birds, food, guides, lunch, and all the expenses.
For Dvorak, it’s a simple way to give back and say thank you.
“This is one way we can show them that we care,” she said. “It is one way how we can help get them integrated to the outdoors again. I never wanted to charge them for anything. I just want them to be able to enjoy a relaxing day in the field with three birds per person, a round of sporting clays, camaraderie and food. They’re outdoor people. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
Sixteen-year-old Jake Schliemann of Savage has been coming to the Charlie’s Hunt since the event’s inception. It is his second favorite event of the year, just after Christmas. When he gave the prayer before the lunch of ribs, it was evident he was thankful for everything the veterans have done and that they were there.
“Thank you for all the great men and women here today, and that they all came home safely,” he said.
For Zimmerman, who maneuvered the snow-filled trails of the Caribou Gun Club in Le Sueur in his motorized wheelchair, it was a day to work on shooting using a specially-made glove for his right hand that had been fitted in San Antonio, TX. Assisting him was his friend Luke Weinandt from Mankato, who is also active Army. Weinandt helped his friend with the clays and also videotaped how he shot so Zimmerman could perfect his technique.
“This has been an amazing, amazing day,” Weinandt said at the end of the clay shooting, before lunch.
When he left, Zimmerman got three pheasants, spent the day with servicemen and women, and got back to what he loves -- the outdoors.
“This is a special event put on by special people. It means a lot to us,” Zimmerman said. “This was the best spring event any of us could ever ask for.”
However, all of Dvorak’s hard work for the veterans didn’t go unnoticed. In addition to celebrating her birthday, she was also presented with a certificate of appreciation, along with a U.S. flag. The inscription on the plaque read: “This flag crossed into Kuwait from Iraq at 0736 18 December, 2011, the day the War in Iraq ended. Thank you for your love, support and dedication to the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have enjoyed “a day a field”. You have impacted so many lives, and personally took operation upland pheasant hunt from a dream to a reality.”