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L.E.E.K. Enriches Servicemen’s Lives

"It's not about the hunt, it's about the healing."

 

by Rhonda Pearson, Chloe Quimby - July 21, 2015

LEEK (Living, Enabling, Enriching, Kindness) Hunting and Mountain Preserve is a work of heart and passion for retired U.S. Army Col. Edward Fisher and his family. As we pulled up in front of one of the buildings used for housing volunteers, we could hear the grind of a sander. Looking around, we noticed a beautiful old red barn used for storage, a stable converted into a functional barracks (to house the visiting wounded warriors/disabled veterans), and a FEMA trailer that had been purchased for more room to house soldiers who have service dogs.

I met Mr. Fisher—or Ed, as he asked us to call him—at the shop where he was working on the sander and immediately felt welcomed. After I introduced him to our crew, he wasted no time in giving us a tour. His passion and heart was evident from the start as he shared with us what they do.
He told us the story of the Warrior’s Barracks, dedicated to a fallen soldier—Cpl. Jason L. Dunham of Kilo Company 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines—who died in Iraq, protecting his comrades by jumping on a grenade with his helmet. Corporal Dunham received the Medal of Honor for his heroism, and a U.S. Navy Arleigh Burke class destroyer was named after him—the USS Jason Dunham. It was christened by Corporal Dunham’s mother, Debra Dunham.

As we left the barracks, Ed showed us a pavilion which had also been dedicated to a soldier from Bradford, PA. This soldier, Staff Sgt. James T. Hackemer, spent three and a half years in the Walter Reed Medical Center after losing both his legs in Iraq when his vehicle hit an IED. Ed mentioned that when James visited they would usually find him outside at the end of the barracks with a group of visiting veterans or volunteers, sharing stories or talking about things. What better way to honor him than to build a pavilion on the very spot that he visited with others.

The emotion with which Ed shared as he told of the lives of these soldiers was clearly evident. From the pavilion, we went to the Range House built by volunteer Master Builder Dave Gibble, dedicated in honor of Master Sgt. Thomas D. Maholic, who died in Afghanistan while covering his squad. Everywhere you look, thought has been put into what can better serve those who have given so much.

Ed then took us on a small tour of the 278 acres that he and his wife own. However, they have available to them an additional 3,200 acres from local land owners. When their neighbors found out what the Fisher Family was trying to do, they let Ed know that they wanted to help by allowing the wounded warriors to hunt on their land. He had made mention that sometimes the land owners will good naturedly argue who will get the next group of soldiers to hunt on their land.

While there, the wounded warriors are treated to home cooked meals. Everything is paid for, from their hunting clothes and rifles to archery equipment and fishing poles. Everything is catered to them on the hunts. As we toured a small portion of the land, Ed showed us where a few of the many tree stands were set up, and blinds throughout. They host six hunts a year: Coyote in March, Gobbler in May, Blackpowder in Fall, Bear in November, and Winter hunt in December.

Volunteers and donations are what help to keep the LEEK Hunting and Mountain Preserve up and running. They are a nonprofit organization and rely on donations and volunteers to help, from clean up sessions to cooking the meals they serve the veterans. The two days they usually get volunteers to come out and help with whatever needs doing on the preserve are Memorial Day and Labor Day. They host an open house in June every year, which is one of their big fundraising events.

At the end of the shoot, Ed graciously fed us three starving Home Page staff members before we left. He sent us on our way feeling as if our lives have been changed. We felt we will never have a bad day again and were left to reflect on the thought, “It’s not about the hunt; it’s about the healing.”
If you would like to learn more about the LEEK Hunting and Mountain Preserve you can visit their website www.leekpreserve.org or call LEEK Hunting and Mountain Preserve: 814-698-2112.

Credits:

Writing: Rhonda Pearson, Chloe Quimby

 

Produced by Vogt Media

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