Paralyzed vet kills his first turkey in 20 years
A GOOD HUNT Wayne Brown of Louisiana poses in front of a special hunting stand designed to lift him off the ground. The equipment helped him successfully hunt a turkey Friday in the woods adjacent to Naval Air Station Meridian. Brown said he wants his success to open up recreational opportunities for paralyzed veterans. Photo by William F. West / The Meridian Star.
By William F. West / community editor
March 29, 2003
Wayne Blackwell may be confined to a wheelchair, but the Louisiana man's emotions were sky high after picking off his first turkey in 20 years.
Blackwell did it in the woods adjacent to Naval Air Station Meridian, thanks to the availability of a special hunting stand designed to lift a handicapped person off the ground.
Blackwell is president of a three-state chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America. He hunted from one of three stands in Mississippi that were built last year with money donated by the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Anheuser-Busch.
The purpose of Friday's hunt was to show that handicapped people can have an active lifestyle with just a little bit of help and with the military opening up lands for hunting and recreation.
The Paralyzed Veterans of America is a congressionally chartered veterans service organization founded in 1946. It addresses issues concerning members of the armed forces who have experienced spinal cord injury.
Lew Deal, 49, is the association's national director of outdoor sports development and a retired Marine lieutenant colonel. Deal said he started the outdoor program at the Marine base at Quantico, Va., when he saw that civilians could hunt on the grounds but that disabled veterans could not.
What resulted, he said, was legislation passed in 1998 giving paralyzed veterans accessibility to outdoor recreation programs on military bases.
U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, R-Miss., was on hand Friday, clad in camouflage. Pickering's connection with the program comes in large part from his leadership in the Congressional Sportsmen's Caucus, of which he is a past co-chairman.
Pickering himself tried to shoot a turkey, but without any success. However, he said he saw some good wildlife.
Capt. Jeff Dickman, commanding officer of NAS Meridian, said the program is a great opportunity for the paralyzed veterans to enjoy the outdoors.
Blackwell, 50, is a Navy veteran who recently retired from his 11-year job as a Baton Rouge fireman.
He's been paralyzed from the waste down ever since suffering the disabling injury, which happened in 1989 when the deer hunting stand he was in collapsed. He has been involved with the Paralyzed Veterans of America for 13 years.