Hunting News

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Hunter's Mark: Grand Forks AFB Airmen treat Wounded Warrior to first ever deer hunt

by Staff Sgt. Luis Loza Gutierrez
319th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

11/14/2013 - WARREN, MINN. -- This year's Veterans Day was marked with several opportunities to honor U.S. military veterans and while some may have been treated to a meal or a drink on the house, one Airman from Grand Forks Air Force Base, N.D., was treated to an outdoorsman experience that would leave him a marked man.

Tech. Sgt. Joshua Robistow, a water and fuel systems technician with the 319th Civil Engineer Squadron, bagged and tagged his first white tail deer Nov. 11 on a farm just a few miles from the town of Warren, Minn.

"This was my first time hunting wild game," said Robistow. "That's if you don't count squirrels during Cool School, he added jokingly referring to the course that teaches Airmen at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, how to survive brutal Arctic elements.

Sergeant Robistow became a wounded warrior while deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In November 2005, an improvised explosive device detonated and struck his Humvee while he and his team drove through the streets of Taji, a town approximately 20 miles north of Baghdad.

The explosion forced shrapnel into his back and destroyed one of the vertebrae in the lower part of this spinal column.

"Doctors used four screws on this part here," said Robistow pointing to the eight-inch long scar on his lower back. "Yeah it sucked, but it's the stuff that comes afterwards that's worse sometimes."

Robistow was referring to the chronic back pain and post-traumatic stress disorder that resulted from his injuries, two things he quickly praised the Air Force and his family for helping him manage.

In addition to the PTSD and injury to his spine, the attack also left Robistow partially deaf.
"The pressure of the explosion was so great that I lost seventy percent of my hearing in my left ear and forty percent in my right, and that's why I have to wear this hearing aid," said Robistow.

Robistow wasn't complaining about his deafness during the hunt, especially not after firing a .330 caliber rifle on his first attempt at a buck from about 280 yards.

"I remembered to take the hearing aid off, but I forgot to not to put my eye so close to the scope. Man that gun had some kick to it! Anyone who doesn't think so can just look at my face," said Robistow once again with a small grin on his face while pointing to the half circle scar around the bridge of his nose and right eye.

"The purpose of this is to say thank you, for the sacrifice this Airman and his family made to our country and Air Force by getting him out for an enjoyable day of hunting -not to wound the wounded warrior," said Master Sgt. Keelan Rasmusson, the 319th Communications Squadron first sergeant, who helped coordinate the event with the help of Maj. James Oberg, who recently retired from the Air Force and whose property provided the site for Robistow's first real hunt.

"I have to admit, I was a very concerned when I saw the blood. Rasmusson and I were ready to take him to a hospital, but Sergeant Robistow was determined to stay and have a successful hunt," said Oberg.

After tending to the wound with some anti-bacterial cream and duct tape for a bandage, Robistow showed the can-do, not-till-the-mission-is-done attitude that service members are known for.

Hours went by with no deer in sight, but around 4 p.m. with the setting sun's light illuminating the woods, Robistow would literally get his second shot, only this time the only blood spilled would be that of a 80- to 90-pound, six-point buck shot down with a .223 rifle at an approximate range of 260 yards.

"My heart was racing the whole time," said Robistow in excitement while holding his chest with one hand and raising the other for high fives from Rasmusson, Oberg and Maj. Frank Burks, the commander of the 319th Comptroller Squadron, who joined the hunting group after being the guest speaker at a Veterans Day observance hosted by the American Legion in Warren, Minn.

"That was a text book shot. He shot it right behind the shoulder to hit the lungs or heart," said Burks. "It's a heck of a shot for a first-time hunter."

Burks and the other experience outdoorsmen guiding Robistow also pointed out that a shot to vital organs such as the lungs or heart is also more humane as it lessens the animal's suffering because it brings about a quicker death.

With the day drawing to a close, the veteran being thanked gave a thank you of his own.

"I just want to thank everyone who helped make this possible," said Robistow. "I want to thank Major Oberg for being a wonderful host and letting us hunt on this beautiful piece of land. I also want to thank the Grand Forks Air Force Base First Sergeants Council for providing the money to process the meat and the Top III for helping purchase the hunting clothes required and for picking up the tab for that hearty breakfast to start the day. This has been an awesome experience and I think it's both funny and fitting that as a wounded warrior I should reach my sixteen-year mark of military service, with a new wound. "

The appreciative NCO went further by humorously saying that although the experience of hunting had literally left him a marked man, he said he couldn't wait to tell the story about how he got his new wound. He later admitted it hasn't always been easy to talk about his personal wounds, whether they'd happen on or off the battlefield.

"Even though I will have to deal with the pain of my war wounds for the rest of my life, today, even just for one moment, I felt as if I had no more pain to take pills for, or therapy to go to," said Robistow. "I once again felt like I was that eighteen-year old kid from Boston, excited to serve and defend his country. I felt just like my old self before the wounds."

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