Aiming to heal

Published 8:38 am Friday, April 29, 2011

Military personnel injured overseas participate in a weeklong archery program hosted by professional archer Kip West. Each received new bows from Bowtech. At left, Cpl. Larry Draughan, of Dayton, Ohio, sights in his bow. — Merle Monahan | Tidewater News


WAKEFIELD—Sixteen veterans from Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital met on the archery field at Airfield 4-H Center in Wakefield this week to try their hand at shooting bows.

Some had had some training, like Sgt. 1st Class William Gonzalez, who shot three arrows and made three perfect bull’s-eyes. For those who had no training, instructors taught them how to handle a compound bow, from adjusting it to the individual’s specifications, to shooting.

By the end of the day, all were shooting, including one man from a wheelchair and others who had lost one or both legs in the war, like Cpl. Larry Draughan

Kip West of Wakefield with Kip West Outdoors hosted the event for a second time. West brings up to 20 wounded veterans from the hospitals to the outdoor event, where they learn how to shoot a bow and fish. Members eventually compete in archery and fishing tournaments.

Kip West Outdoors was started by West to honor his friend, Marine Sgt. Jayton Patterson, a Sedley man who was killed in Iraq in 2005. It introduces severely wounded men and women to the outdoors, he said.

West and Freedom Alliance, which sponsors events supporting service members and their families, host an annual “Salute to our Heroes Event,” where West gets the group together for a week of outdoor fun.

A professional archer sponsored by Bowtech, West provides gear and sees that each veteran learns how to shoot.

The week at the 4-H Center has been one of action for the veterans. The first two days were spent on the archery field, ending with a skeet competition. The third day was spent fishing, while today, they will attend a NASCAR race in Richmond.

West will spend the next year with the 16 veterans, taking them to various archery hunts around the country.

He said the organization needs funding, and Kip West Outdoors will accept donations.

West also wants to get the word out about the organization, noting he has already worked with Montel Williams, Col. Oliver North and Tracey Lawrence, to name a few.