Originally created 12/18/06

Program introduces veterans to hunting



COLUMBIA - For Army Spc. Crystal Davis, this was a weekend for firsts.

On Friday, she took her first steps on a new prosthetic leg, which is pounds lighter than her last one and much easier for the small-framed 22-year-old to use.

On Saturday morning, she drove for the first time since Jan. 21, when a roadside bomb in Iraq destroyed the lower part of one leg and crushed every bone from the knee down in the other.

On Saturday night, she shot her first deer - a single-point buck, but still, she noted, "I got an antler."

Spc. Davis owes the leg to the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Augusta where she has been recovering for the past month. But the rest she owes to the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and its Take One Make One program - and the family of Army Spc. Thomas Caughman, of Lexington, who died June 9, 2004, in Iraq.

Take One Make One pairs youths and young adults with an experienced adult who introduces them to hunting and shooting.

It's the beneficiary of the Thomas Caughman Memorial Fund - a perfect fit because Spc. Caughman was avid outdoorsman, his mother, Jane, said.

Various groups, including disabled children and the Make-A-Wish Foundation, often participate in the program. But Saturday's outing was especially appropriate: Seven soldiers recovering from their injuries at the medical centers and Fort Gordon hunted together at the Millaree Hunt Club near Columbia.

The Caughmans, DNR, Millaree, medical center and the Quality Deer Management Association all worked to secure day passes, weekend hunting licenses, transportation, hunting grounds, food and volunteers.

Mrs. Caughman said it was great to see soldiers who "believe in the same things he believed in" enjoying the activities her son loved.

"As hard as (his death) is, you see good things have come from it," she said.

Physical therapist Doug Mitchell said the medical center and veterans are grateful for the regular invitations they receive from the community, which provide a real-world way to test recovery progress.

Plus, Mr. Mitchell said, "The hospital, Monday through Friday, can just get so monotonous with all the therapy you have to go through and all the appointments."

The hunters bagged four deer: One for Spc. Davis; an eight-point buck for National Guard Sgt. Carl Baas, who turned 21 on Sunday; and two does for Army National Guard Sgt. Paul Fogel.

Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or kirsten.singleton@morris.com.