Vets Seek Healing, Understanding At Okmulgee County Ranch

Saturday, November 6th 2010, 7:09 pm
By: News On 6

Lacie Lowry, News On 6

OKMULGEE COUNTY -- Wounded war veterans are the guests of honor in Okmulgee County this weekend.

A remote ranch there is helping soldiers and marines with the mental healing that's often hard to find after traumatic physical injuries.

Corporal Matt Bradford is a blind, double amputee after stepping on a bomb four years ago.

"Pretty much took my legs off instantly and lost vision straight away because shrapnel went through my eyeballs," Bradford said.

The Iraq war veteran knows his way around a gun, but cannot see his target. Despite that, the 24-year-old is hoping to get a deer in his sights.

"Even if I don't get anything, hunting and fishing are the same thing, it's just so peaceful. It shows us how good we actually have it here," said Cpl Matt Bradford, of the US Marine Corps.

Bradford is one of four wounded warriors hunting at the Bowman Lodge near Morris. The lodge sits on 1100 acres and provides hunting and fishing experience for injured servicemen.

It also gives them a chance to hang out with friends or meet new people dealing with the same struggles. The veterans don't pay anything.

So how does a blind man hunt?

A digital scope on the rifle projects the same image onto a monitor. The guide tells the shooter left, right, up or down until he's right on target.

Several of the hunters have had successful hunting trips.

"None of us thought about emotional or mental disabilities or impact from what they've been through and realized how much this could help those things as well. It increases their self confidence and mental health," explained Mike Wittrock, a Hunting Guide.

Bradford says despite his disabilities, "I'm going to get it done. I just have that don't give up attitude."

The lodge has two more hunts scheduled for this season. Both of those hunts are already booked.

The lodge goes through the Medical Transition Units for the Army and the Marines to find injured veterans.

Transportation, lodging and food for the injured veterans are paid for by the Talley Bowman Foundation, a local non-profit that supports the Armed Forces