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Veterans gather for helicopter hog hunting

TRUSCOTT - Veterans who gave so much in service enjoyed the great outdoors Friday at the Circle Bar Ranch as part of the Semper Gratus Helicopter Hunt.

After arriving at the ranch Thursday, the hunt got underway bright and early Friday morning.

The veterans are glad to have this chance to spend time with others who have served.

For many of the veterans, this was their first time taking flight to hunt from the sky in the Semper 
Gratus Helicopter Hunt.

“That was exciting. That is everything you thought it would be and a lot more. Beyond my expectations. That was crazy awesome,” said Mike Ballard, a wounded Army veteran.

“It's amazing. It's great. It's a lot better than even what I expected, and I already had some pretty high expectations before coming here,” said Alex Tice a Marine Corps veteran.

Thos who participated say what makes the hunt even more special is that they get to do it alongside their comrades.

“To make those connections again, get back with guys I can really relate to means a lot to me,” Ballard said.

That's one of the best parts of this,” Tice said. “When you go back to being a civilian you run into a few veterans but it's nice to be around a bunch of guys that understand what you've been through. And giving the other branches a hard time, being in the Marine Corps. It's a great weekend. Can't ask for anything more."

The weekend is all made possible thanks to a large team of sponsors and dedicated volunteers.

“I love this country. Everything that is good in my life is because I live in the United States of America,” said Barry Mahler, a member of the Redneck Culinary Academy that was cooking for the event. “These folks paid the price when they go off and defend our freedoms all over the globe. It makes me feel very good to be able to say thanks to the people who will still step up and get the job done and fight for the freedoms that we enjoy here in the united states.”

Year after year, many band together to allow veterans to take flight for this unique hunting experience, and organizers say it’s a way of saying thanks and ensuring these veterans know their service and sacrifices will never be forgotten.

Another round of hog hunting will take place Saturday morning and the weekend will end with a dance that night.

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