Warrenton, VA-"I've never been so proud or humbled to be an American after visiting our troops in Southwest Asia. They are true heroes who sacrifice so much to help others live free," said popular outdoor television personality and host, Michael Waddell, following the recent completion of the first-ever Outdoor Legends Tour.
Waddell and other "Outdoor Legends" Jim Zumbo, Jerry Martin, Ryan Klesko and National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) CEO, George Thornton, just returned from a 10-day tour of military installations where they met with active duty servicemen and -women, as well as many who were recovering from wounds received in recent combat action.
The "first of its kind" tour was conducted by Armed Forces Entertainment (AFE) and cooperatively organized by AFE and Paralyzed Veterans of America-Outdoor Recreation Heritage Fund (PVA-ORHF). Retired Marine Corp officers Major General Randy West and Lt. Col. Lew Deal, both actively working with PVA-ORHF, conceptualized the tour to represent the outdoor industry and show its appreciation to those on the front lines of freedom.
General West, who led the on-ground tour, said the tour was a notable success. "It was an absolutely superb trip. We found supportive and appreciative commanders, enthusiastic and excited troops... and appreciative wounded Soldiers and Marines. Our group of Outdoor Legends was patriotic and caring. It was one of the best such events I have ever been involved with-those we visited want us back and those we didn't get to visit are clamoring for a similar opportunity."
Thornton summarized the trip by saying, "The professionalism, commitment, readiness and esprit de corps of our service men and women is outstanding. I wish every American could have this experience. I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to represent the membership of the NWTF and express our support of our troops on the Outdoor Legends Tour. Hats off to General Randy West, Col. Lew Deal, the Paralyzed Veterans of America and Armed Forces Entertainment for making the tour possible."
"Seeing the military installations and the troops was an eye-opener for me," said Jim Zumbo, one of the nation's best known big game hunters and outdoor personality. "Base personnel were extremely cordial, and we were warmly welcomed everywhere we went. A big part of the trip was the 'meet and greet' session where we sat down with the troops and chatted about the outdoors and anything they wanted to talk about. I came away from this trip with admiring respect for the troops. The visit to the hospital in Germany was especially welcome since many of the severely injured troops I take hunting were stabilized there prior to returning to the US. This was a unique trip when compared to all my other adventures abroad, and it will always be one of the most memorable. "
BASS Pro Shops Pro Staff member, Jerry Martin, felt honored to be with so many troops. "It was an unbelievable trip. I feel that we brought a little bit of home to all those who are protecting our freedom. Bless our troops!"
Former major league baseball player and outdoor television host, Ryan Klesko expressed his deep appreciation for being part of the tour and representing the outdoor industry. He especially noted, "...what a great opportunity it was to go thank all our troops for everything they do!" Klesko and the other Legends even had time to play a little pickup game of baseball at one of their stops where, it is rumored, Kelsko can still "put the hurt" on a baseball.
Col. Kathleen Weatherspoon, (USAF) Chief, Armed Forces Entertainment said the Outdoor Legends Tour was "welcomed enthusiastically" by those servicemen and -women who follow the outdoor sports. "More than 300 troops at five bases attended formal 'Meet and Greets,' and informal visits with hundreds more military members in their worksites provided the opportunity to get to know the tour members. It was clear that the hunting lifestyle is an integral part of some troops' backgrounds. Hearing from and visiting with this group was welcomed by these military members."
A second group of Legends was originally scheduled to conduct a similar tour to a different part of Southwest Asia but was postponed due to unpredictable activity in the scheduled areas. That group, designated Outdoor Legends II includes Cuz Strickland, Jim Shockey, Brenda Valentine and Bill Miller. The tour is expected to take place later this year.
Additional efforts to make the tour a reality were provided by Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation President, Jeff Crane, NWTF's George Thornton, Mossy Oak's Ronnie "Cuz" Strickland and PVA-ORHF's Marketing and PR Coordinator, Chris Chaffin.
For more information on PVA-ORHF and its mission to support PVA's outdoor sports programs, including hunting, fishing and shooting go to www.pvaheritagefund.org
Media Contact: Chris Chaffin, National Marketing & PR Coordinator Chris@ChaffinCommunications.com
Armed Forces Entertainment:
About Armed Forces Entertainment: Armed Forces Entertainment is the official Department of Defense agency for providing entertainment to U.S. military personnel serving overseas, with priority given to those in contingency operations and at remote and isolated locations. The Department of the Air Force is the executive agent of Armed Forces Entertainment. Founded in 1951, Armed Forces Entertainment brings a touch of home to more than 500,000 troops annually, embracing the best of Americana that stretches across all genres of entertainment. Visit www.armedforcesentertainment.com
for more information.