This past September I had the opportunity to sponsor fellow Vietnam veteran John Devine at the first annual Billy Ray Parnell Purple Heart Hunt at Legends Ranch in Bitely, Michigan, to hunt white-tailed deer.
We were met at the airport by Skipper Bettis, owner of Legends Ranch, and his crew. From the second we arrived we were treated like royalty, and when we arrived at the ranch it got even better. Skipper’s wife, Glenna, made sure everything was taken care of, and we got settled and every thing was explained what was going to happen during the next 3 days of the hunt. The veterans were presented with boots, clothing, and knives—everything they would need for hunting in any weather imaginable—all donated.
There were eight other Purple Heart veterans who hunted with their sponsors: The oldest was a WWII veteran, and the youngest had recently served in Iraq.
The first day started early 4 a.m. so we could get to the various blinds and get ready for a day of hunting, and we experienced lots of watching and waiting. We broke for lunch at 10 a.m., and then back out later in the day for more hunting. John harvested his deer on day No. 2, and everyone got their deer by the final day of the hunt.
I was sorry to see it all end—the trip was one I’ll never forget, and I’m already making plans for the sponsorship of another veteran’s hunt this coming September. Watching what Legends Ranch did for those veterans was unbelievable, and I am proud to call them all friends.
When I got home I wrote a letter to Ruger, and sent it along with some pictures. I heard from Ruger, and they were more than willing to help John refinish the rifle he used on the hunt!
I got in touch with John, and he made the arrangements to send the rifle to Ruger and they went to work. They kept me informed of what was happening, and we made arrangements to present John with his 40-year-old “new rifle” at the New England Sports Clinic for Disabled Veterans in Sunapee, New Hampshire.