To the generous souls that made our trip possible.
First and foremost please allow me to say from the bottom of my heart thank you. The trip my wife and I were able to go on because of your generosity will forever hold a special place in our hearts and memories. Just three months prior to our trip we welcomed our beautiful son in to this world, though it was hard to leave him behind for the trip it turned out to be just what we needed. We both simply needed to leave the world behind and be invisible for a few days.
What we found is that is exactly what Danny & Carla offered. A quiet, somber, and peaceful retreat from the real world. They were the best hosts anyone could ever ask for. They did everything they could to ensure we had a restful stay while at their camp. You could tell they love every bit of what they do for the Warriors that they host. They strive for perfection and I truly believe they have achieved it.
From the minute we arrived in Camp everything was taken care of. A great man by the name of Keith met us at the gate. He even helped us unload and put our luggage in our room. After a little down time to get settled it was off to the range. Keith did everything he could to help me zero in my rifle, after putting a few rounds down range everything was set. My wife even loved the range time because she got to watch the herd of Axis deer they had in the pasture. Maybe if everywhere we went was like that I could go to the range more often! Setting up in the first blind was an experience. After watching Keith try to combat some of the massive spiders they had down there we were ready to go. Though the first night all we saw were a couple of over active squirrels, it was still the perfect night being able to sit in the quiet air with my wife and enjoy the peace and serenity of nature going to sleep. After hunting that night I’ll admit I was a little discouraged, that feeling didn’t last long while I was eating some of Carla’s amazing cooking.
The next day started early with us being in the blind well before sunrise. To this day I still swear nothing is better than hearing the world wake up around you. The birds and squirrels start moving the wind blows the trees and everything just comes alive right in front of you. Then you start to hear the hogs waking. The grunts start in the distance and get closer and closer with every passing second. When the first group of three came out I swear my heart could have leapt out of my chest! I slowly gathered my composure then lined up my shot. With the crack of the rifle it was over in an instant. The birds flew away, the squirrels retreated, and there 100 yards ahead of me was my first kill. It was a feeling I have yet to describe. I was on top of the world. It was a feeling I have yet to replicate. I was grinning from ear to ear. I soon called Danny to tell him the news, I’m sure I was almost shouting through the phone, and he said “well stay out there and see if anymore come out”. Sure enough, the hogs just kept coming and coming. Sad to say I missed my second shot, but I was still so over the moon I really didn’t care!
After getting back and cleaning up Mrs. Carla fed us an amazing breakfast. Then the camp was gracious enough to send my wife and I horseback riding. Now, I’ve never been on a horse before so I’m sure my wife got a kick out of watching me on it. The look on her face though was pure bliss. She hadn’t ridden a horse in years and she said she loved doing it just like she had before. It was amazing how the Foundation was able to even take the wives and family members in to account when they host for a hunt. A lot of times people do tend to forget about the support network we as Service members have, which leaves the wives and families feeling left out, but as I said before I do believe Danny and Carla have perfected what they have created. That night I was able to go out to the blind and get another hog.
As the trip came to an end, we all laughed and shared stories. Many things I will take away and always reflect on from this trip. The biggest thing being Family. It is evident that Danny and Carla have set up a retreat by families for families. Nothing else I have ever seen has come close to that. I know I have praised Danny and Carla, but I cannot leave out all of their amazing Ranch hands. The most vivid of which being Keith. He was so much fun to be around, from all his joking and stories he would tell while we were headed to the blind or to the orange groves to check the traps. He definitely made the trip a one of a kind experience. The whole trip was just beyond amazing. The experience was humbling to know that there are still people out there that care for the Service members to go through everything to provide such an amazing retreat such as this.
In closing I want to say thank you again for allowing me the chance to take part in this excursion. These are truly memories my wife and I will cherish and remember for the rest of our lives. It’s not often we get to be invisible and leave the world behind, so once again thank you for allowing us to do that.
SGT Brandon J. Noel
US Army OIF/OEF Veteran