Healing on the Hunt
Matt Houston stepped deliberately through the dark woods, trying not to fall in the rocky terrain.
He paused to wipe sweat from his forehead and adjusted the rifle slung across his chest. He checked on his daughter, Cheyenne, 7, who tripped repeatedly on stones carpeted by dead leaves. He lifted binoculars to scan for signs of life. Finding none, he moved on.
In the cool air before dawn, Houston, 30, of Kittanning was sweating heavily when they reached a metal ladder leading to a tree platform 15 feet up, where he and Cheyenne would sit for the next five hours.
“Cheyenne, turn around,” he said. “Daddy needs to dry off his leg.”
The girl obeyed and Houston slid down his pants to reveal the prosthetic, a replacement for the leg he lost in Iraq. As he dried and readjusted the titanium limb, other wounded veterans tread, out of sight and earshot, through the forest. They were hunting deer outside Altoona, a trip organized by the Wounded Heroes Hunting Camp program.
The nonprofit aims to help disabled vets heal emotionally by providing the camaraderie of other vets wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, said Jeremy Harbaugh, president and co-founder of the Boonsboro, Md.-based organization. Harbaugh and other vets said programs such as this one are more important than ever. Thousands of soldiers are returning home from Iraq, Afghanistan and other locales, and many will struggle to fit into civilian life.