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Montana program helps post-9/11 combat veterans find purpose and meaning through archery hunting

Posted at 9:12 AM, Jun 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-24 18:17:56-04

BOZEMAN - For those in the military a path is always set, and once some veterans leave the service many don’t know what their path is.

At Warriors and Quiet Waters, they are helping veterans find purpose through archery.

In the last two years Sean Gifford, who served in the US Army, was struggling to find his purpose in a time when the world has been isolated.

“It's not just archery, it's not even about hunting, for the most part, It's about growth and finding our purpose once you leave service,” says Gifford.

“My older daughter wanted to start getting into hunting and I just didn't have the motivation and the drive to take her out,” says Gifford.

At Warriors and Quiet Waters, they are helping veterans find purpose through archery elk hunting

That's when Gifford decided to sign up for Hunt with a Purpose, a program with Warriors and Quiet Waters.

"(It's a) 6-month program designed to enable post 9/11 combat veterans to find greater clarity in their identity, their values, their potential, and their purpose,” says Warriors and Quiet Waters CEO, Brian Gilman.

Veterans prepare for an elk hunt in the fall and conduct a stress shoot to help them prepare. They stimulate the adrenaline that comes with a hunt.

Brain “What's called a stress shoot- shooting under duress,” says Gilman. “Your heart is going to be beating out of your chest, your hands are going to be shaking, you're going to be nervous.”

Volunteers raise the participants' adrenaline with exercise, by having them do burpees, and box jumps all while they load their arrows and aim for the target.

Larry Weidinger celebrated 30 years of service in the Army in June.

“Oh man, after being in the Army I love stress shoots. It's a lot of fun because of the military interservice rivalry. Pick on each other because that's how we show love,” says Weidinger

While they go through the course they get yelled at and they have to maintain focus.

“Usually I'm on the other end doing the screaming,” says Gifford.

As they slow their breath, being steady is key to making sure they hit their target.

“That was difficult, that was probably one of the harder things I've done in a while trying to catch your breath and making sure you don't miss the target,” says Gifford.

Even as they hit their target, it's not the elk that is the prize they take home.

“The goal for the hunt may not even be to bring down an elk, it could be that we were out there, finding that peace, finding that tranquility,” says Weidinger.