I was first involved with Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) during their Family Day in 2011, held in San Antonio, Texas. It was an incredible experience to be able to talk with, assist and entertain our injured Soldiers, Airmen, Marines and Sailors. The mission of HAVA is simple: Take those who have given part of themselves in service to our country and show them a good time through the shooting sports and hunting. Companies such as Mossberg, Smith & Wesson, XS Sight Systems, Glock and many, many more fund the volunteer organization. The support donated by these companies not only involves funding and product, but also manpower. For some of the smaller sponsors, it can mean almost shutting their business down for three to four days for the event, but they are happy to donate their efforts to the organization and what it stands for.
While the largest Family Day is held in San Antonio, for the past two years HAVA has partnered with Academi Training Center in Moyock, NC (formerly Blackwater USA) to host a second event. The HAVA Family Day is designed for family entertainment. Veterans and their families have the chance to get behind some of the latest firearms from HAVA Sponsors, with ammunition provided by other sponsors. There is also plenty to entertain the kids who are not old enough to fire live ammunition.
At this years event, attendees gathered on the range after registration for a welcome from Tom Taylor, HAVA Chairman, and Jim Hickey, Vice President of Academi, along with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. After that came the Pro Shooter Exhibition, which featured James Darst, Chris Fleming and Deb Cheek of Team DPMS, Trevor Baucom of Team Smith & Wesson, and Junior shooter Lee Wills of Team PARA. We changed the format up a bit this year and went to a three-person, three-gun style shootoff. Man-on-man shoot-offs are always great to watch, especially with some competitive remarks between friends!
After eating lunch at the onsite chow hall it was time to get the veterans and their families behind the guns. For the pistol range, Glock provided GEN4 G34s, while Smith & Wesson brought M&P Pro Series and M&P22 pistols. Participants fired Mossberg 930s and 500s on the shotgun ranges that had an aerial target activated by shooting a pepper popper. Bolt action Mossberg MVPs and DPMS AR-15s were fired both from a bench and offhand at targets out to about 100 yards. The sixth and final live-fire station was the one timed stage for the day; shooters had to use a pistol, AR rifle and shotgun to engage various targets under the pressure of the timer. The scores were finalized and a few prizes were awarded at the end of the day via the Lewis distribution system.
The crew at XS Sight Systems had volunteered themselves to run the kids play area for those too young to live fire, that way both parents can have a good time on the range. Young ones are instructed on the four basic rules of gun safety before being allowed to handle airsoft rifles and pistols. Once they have the basics down, Academi lends their awesome Hogan’s Alley and shoothouse facility for each young shooter to try their hand at the scenario. I ran the alley a few times and in my opinion it was the best part of the whole day! For the kids who were finished or weren’t interested in airsoft, there was also a bounce house, face painting and a few other activities to keep them busy.
The best thing on site was the quadriplegic adaptive equipment made by Be Adaptive. As I mentioned before, HAVA is committed to getting everybody behind a firearm and putting a shot on target. With this equipment, a shooter is able to roll their wheelchair onto a platform where everything is mounted and control the aiming with the chin operated joystick and sucker tube for the trigger mechanism. With the scope image being displayed on a screen, this rig makes it so anybody, no matter what physical challenges they are overcoming, can put rounds downrange. I was able to take a few shots using it, and it is amazing technology.
After the shooting was over, dinner was served while a live band performed and raffle drawings were held for firearms donated by sponsors. All in all, it was a wonderful day of fun, camaraderie and service to those who gave part of themselves in service to our country.
For more information on HAVA and how to get involved, visit honoredveterans.org.
By BJ Norris. Originally published in the September 2013 issue of GunUp the Magazine.