EDISON, Ga. (WALB) - South Georgia is home to an organization that aims to allow our country’s finest to enjoy life away from the battlefield.
Dan Hammack started the “Purple Heart Outdoors Tour” in Edison more than a decade ago, to say thank you to those who put their lives on the line for our country.
"I was a green beret, special operations, did 20 years myself," Hammack said. "This is like my second mission, you know. We're recruiting young men to come into the outdoor community. We want to introduce them," he explained. "Some of these people have never hunted in their life."
Hammack got together with several others, including a firefighter who survived September 11th, Paul Johnson, and retired actor, Michael Talbott, to get the Purple Heart Outdoors Tour up and running.
"What we take for granted, they don't. They're volunteers," Talbott said. "They're doing stuff that none of us would ever do."
The non-profit, based in Edison, does six events across the country every year, where they invite special forces operators in the military, to participate - all for free.
The events tap into their competitive side.
"We're engaging in a number of different tasks to kind of compete against our teams, and see who's the best team," Army soldier Ben Durham said during the event in Edison earlier this month.
They tested their duck hunting, bow and arrow and even hunter's maneuvering skills.
"I don't shoot primitive bow and arrow or .22 rifles, but we're competing as a team," said Green Beret Daniel Kronz.
The teams are made up of operators from different units.
“I’m working with two guys I’ve never met before,” Kronz explained. “They’re both rangers, and it’s building that camaraderie and being away from the office and out in the woods.”
"It's a time for us to get together, kind of take our mind off of what we actually do," Durham said.
Hammack said that's the goal: for them to unwind and loosen up.
"We have people over in Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere, and in Latin America who are engaged in hostile fire zones and combat operations," Hammack said. "So, this is a way to bring them together and enjoy themselves and let them decompress and show them the support that they need."
These military members said they are thankful there is a group of people who cares enough to put something like this together for them.
"It blows my mind," Kronz said. "I don't even know if I have a word for the generosity. If you look back in late 60s early 70s and the support that the Vietnam veterans got, which was lacking, and now, I go to dinner and someone buys my meal. And people throw however much money it costs to put on this event, it's almost humbling in a sense."
"To feel the warmth of the community and the generosity of people to make this happen, for most of us, we couldn't do this without them. For us, it means everything," Durham said.
The organizers said it's that sentiment that urges them to keep putting these events on at no cost to the operators, every year.
"They won't complain about anything," Talbott said. "They're just grateful to be here and have fun."