Sunday, July 26, 2009

Serving servicemen in the great outdoors

Story by Cpl. Robert C. Medina

Photos courtesy of American Valor Outdoors

Military men and women serve all over the world when deployed. But what do they do when they come home?

One Marine who dedicates his time to a unique program called “American Valor Outdoors,” which was formed in an effort to honor all of America’s services members and their many sacrifices, is Staff Sgt. Bradley M. Luke. (photo above)

Currently, Luke is on his way home from a seven-month deployment with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked aboard USS Boxer (LHD 4), serving as the communications chief for Bravo Battery, Battalion Landing Team 1/1.
American Valor Outdoors provides service members a variety of all expense paid activities including hunting, fishing, shooting and even photography, to name a few.

“To date, we have taken military members from all branches of service—children who have lost a parent in the current conflicts, law enforcement personnel, fire fighters and numerous injured service members—who cherish the time away and look forward to some natural rehabilitation,” explained Derome West, a Del Rio, Texas native, president and founder of American Valor Outdoors.

Remembering back, Luke says he got started in AVO through a close friend.

“I was taken on a hunt for turkeys in Clay County, Texas,” said Luke, from Stockton, Ill. “It was actually a tournament with ten different TV shows competing; our team took first and second place. To say it was awesome would not do it justice.”

Since that event, Luke has been involved with AVO for about three years. He serves as a Marine liaison, helping put events together.

Luke says they will eventually start a TV show as all of the events have already been taped in high-quality video for the participants.
“The only thing that really sets us back is our work schedules and funding. We are non-profit and all of the money comes from banquets and fundraisers. Individual donations help some too,” said Luke.

West says the entire AVO staff works on a volunteer basis.

“It is the volunteer spirit and the caliber of volunteers we have that makes what we do a success,” said West.

“The entire staff knows first hand what sacrifice is,” said West. “We have all served our country in both peace and war. With our been-there-done-that experiences, we have a unique insight into the warrior spirit which, in turn, better enables us to provide a quality experience for our guests.”

West praises Luke’s commitment to this program.

“Staff Sgt. Luke has been instrumental in the success of (AVO). He has taken this challenge in true Marine fashion, met it head on with uncompromising standards and delivered the very best results,” said West. “His service to (AVO) reflects great credit upon himself and the entire Marine Corps.”

Luke says he feels his involvement shows that even as an active duty service member, he doesn’t take his brothers and sisters in the service lightly. He said he is willing to give his time and resources up to show his appreciation for their service.

“[My hunting trip] was one of the most memorable times I have ever had,” said Luke. “I want others to have the same experience I did. I have never had the honor of working with such a great group of guys except for the warriors I serve with.”

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