Veterans Voices

Wounded Warriors in Action: Purple Heart veterans bond while hunting

Local News

Pheasant and deer hunting are popular in North Dakota, attracting visitors from all over every year.
This weekend 4 purple heart veterans are taking advantage of what the area has to offer.

The Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation is a non-profit organization that takes the nation’s purple heart recipients on hunting and fishing adventures all over the country.

“Everyone of the guys that have done it, as far as I can remember, have loved it,” said Derek Vanburen, Army Veteran and Purple Heart Award recipient.

Staff Sergeant Derek Vanburen is one of those guys. The purple heart recipient, along with 3 others came from different parts of the U.S. to Garrison for the weekend for a trip of healing and bonding.

Vanburen added, “It’s even special, maybe more so, to meet other purple heart veterans and see the appreciation that they have.”

Derek, John Biggerstaff, Christopher Hills, and Matt Cantrell all suffered traumatic injuries while serving in the military.

For some, it was their second trip with Wounded Warriors in Action and for others, it was their first, and definitely one they will remember.

“I couldn’t believe it. We were walking along and the dog kicked a bird up and it was right where it should have been and I shot it, and I guess I yelled out a little bit,” said Christopher Hills.

John Biggerstaff added, “A lot of pheasant hunting, met a lot of good people, ate a lot of really good food. Had a blast honestly.”

But more importantly, it was a time to share stories with people that they had never met, but somehow knew them well.

“When you meet a combat veteran it’s an instant bond. It’s something that’s unspoken that you have been through. You already know. You may not know the exact circumstance but you know the general situation,” said Matt Cantrell.

The dual-branch vet says the weekend has helped him heal in ways that not many cannot understand.

He added, “I can tell you about my experiences and that may be interesting for you to hear, but you can’t really understand unless you’ve been there.”

“Like others who visit the state, these veterans have had a chance to do something that they wouldn’t normally. Hunting, and finding an escape from day to day life and maybe even a pheasant or two along the way.

This is the third annual hunt in the area, put on by Ray McKenzie and Bruce Schreiner in honor of Glen Schreiner. The veterans say they now call the people they met in Garrison family. SCHEELS in Minot provided the hunting gear for the veterans.

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