I recall as a youngster celebrating Armistice Day and that somewhere along the way it changed into Veterans Day. Since Armistice Day was intended to comemorate the end of World War I, I think it’s much more fitting that we honor all of our country’s vets instead. Interestingly our nations returning vets have had a huge effect on our outdoor heritage as well. Returning vets often went hunting and put food on the table for their families with the firearms they used in the war.
The westward expansion after the Civil War was fueled by vets carrying their army rifles with them. My great grandfather was wounded at the battle of Atlanta in 1864 and my grandfather learned to hunt using a .58 caliber war surplus musket. After the Spanish-American War, President Teddy Roosevelt ordered a new rifle for our troops and the 1903 Springfield was carried into battle by G.I.’s in World Wars I and II. In 1936 the M1 Garand and its little brother the M1 Carbine were introduced which eventually replaced the Springfield by the war’s end in 1945. Millions of G.I.s carried M1’s in Europe, the Pacific, Korea, and even in Viet Nam. As an old Vet about an injury know as M1 Thumb which you got if you held your thumb wrong when shooting.
Much like my Grandfather in the 1800s, returning Vets from Wars I, II, and Korea used military surplus rifles to hunt with when they returned home. A few months ago my brother in law Wes Huffman was showing me an M1 Garand he inherited from his Dad. The old military guns were readily affordable for Vets who wanted to put meat in their freezer each fall. Not only were millions of vets familiar with the Springfield and M1, but they made great hunting rifles as well. If you got a deer or elk in the fall with your rifle, you could feed your family with 100 pounds or more of healthy, additive-free meat to supplement their diets.
Often times the returning Vets took care of their wounded comrades by taking them hunting as a way to try to repay them for the sacrifices they made. I recall special community wide hunts for disabled Vets. General Joe Tiago of the Marines was the organizer of the event each fall and disabled vets were assisted by the American Legion and the VFW members as they went in search of pheasants in the nearby fields. Afterwards there was a big banquet and it seemed like the entire community turned out to say “Thank You” to our Vets. I’m certain it was those disabled Vet hunts each fall that drove my brother to become a Marine. Soon, he too, joined the ranks of the disabled war vets. For as long as he lived Chris was not only a Marine, but a hunter as well.
As we celebrate Veterans Day, I’ll be thinking of the millions of guys who put their lives on hold to defend our country. I’ll also be smiling as I think of those same guys as they went in search of deer, or pheasants, or elk each fall. Thank You Guys!
Until Next Week, Tight Lines