I would like to thank everyone that took time to donate to the Sportsmens Foundation For Military Families.
My brother SSG Ryan Kernen was awarded this wonderful trip. When he got word he invited my husband, his two nieces, his mother, and myself (sister).
I was grateful that he wanted to include all of us; as i will take any chance to spend time with him. He is my oldest brother and someone i have always looked up to and been able to count on.
It turned out to be the most amazing weekend. We got to go horse back riding and wild boar hunting. These are two things we have never done before; all the while bonding with family.
Danny and Carla SantAngelo really made an environment that made us feel so welcome. We left with an experience of a lifetime.
The Barnes Family
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Barry Hull,
My name is Ryan Kernen and I was recently a recipient of a “Hunt for Veterans” with Okeechobee Outfitters. I would like to thank you for giving me such an amazing opportunity to share time hunting with my family. I hunt quite a bit in North Florida (rarely do I kill anything), almost always by myself. I have never had the chance to take along the people who mean the most to me.
On this weekend trip to Okeechobee Outfitters, I was able to bring my sister (pregnant with twins), her husband, my two nieces (2y/o and a 5 y/o), my mother, and most importantly my wife. None of which have ever hunted before and they surely didn’t understand why I go to the woods alone so often.
My wife was able to shoot her FIRST hog ever with the new rifle I purchased for her birthday in anticipation of this trip. My brother-in-law, Darren, bagged two hogs and my sister even got a shot at one. I, unfortunately, didn’t get a shot at anything…but to me, that did not matter.
Over the last 18 years, I have served in The U.S. Army (and Army National Guard). To date, I have done 4 tours of duty overseas. I helped open the prison in GTMO in 2002, I was in Iraq in 2004 and 2006/07, and my last trip was to Afghanistan in 2010/11.
I now serve the community as a Firefighter in Jacksonville, Florida with JFRD. Through my experiences in leading troops and working with people, I have found that everyone deals with their experiences differently as we all have different coping mechanisms. Me personally, I don’t bring it up much and to this day my wife and family really don’t know much about my trips other than that I was there.
I don’t consider myself a “wounded warrior” or to have PTSD (although the Dr’s and the VA have a different opinion). I have however, had the most honorable opportunity to have worked among heroes and personally I put them in a much higher place then I would put myself.
Only within the last couple years did I realize that I had been pulling away from my family. I stopped attending family functions, stopped calling as much, and generally just kept to myself and my small group of Army buddies. I have learned that by going hunting and riding my motorcycle, I find that I can reflect on what I have experienced.
When my wife submitted me for this hunt and we found out that I had “won” a hunt, I wasn’t sure who to bring. The email I received said “bring those who supported you while you were gone”.
As a hunter, I have a small idea of what these hunts cost and that’s why I have never been on one. I first chose to bring my wife, my sister, and her family. My sister is the one family member I would say I am closest to.
When my mom expressed interest in going, I felt guilty about asking Danny and Carla to add another to the list. I felt like I may be pushing my luck adding names to an already expensive trip. Danny and Carla graciously allowed me to bring anyone I wanted, without hesitation or question.
I later found out it was because of your donations that I was afforded the chance to experience something amazing with my family. Something that we all will never forget, ever.
Danny and Carla have a first rate, top of the line facility and guide service. The lodging was incredible, the meals were amazing, the hunting was a blast, and to this day, my nieces are still talking about the guided horseback trip through the woods!!
Your donations and the Sportsmen’s Foundation for Military Families are really doing wonderful things for us service members. The idea of having service members bring their families on outdoors excursions like this is great. It definitely has allowed me to connect to my family by doing something I previously kept all for myself.
I cannot express in words my gratitude for the experiences and memories that your generous donations have allowed me to share with those that are closet to me. I have told most everyone, what an amazing foundation this is and if they ever wanted to donate to a veterans group, this would be the one I would recommend to donate to.
Your donations gave my family and myself a weekend we will never forget, and for that I would personally like to thank you.
SSG Ryan Kernen
FSC 3/20th SFG(A)