The Garden City Telegram
1/22/2013
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

Fine salute

Outdoor ventures help wounded veterans cope.

Wounded military veterans face plenty of challenges.

The ugly fallout of war has left many vets dealing with extraordinary physical and emotional struggles as they return to civilian life at home and work.

So, it's easy to see how many could use a break from the difficulties of everyday life. Outdoor activities — hunting, fishing and the like — can deliver such an escape.

As part of a plan to expand a hunting opportunity for wounded veterans in the state, the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) will ask the Kansas Legislature to allow a certain number of deer permits to be issued to service-connected disabled combat veterans.

Kansas, like many states, has various programs for disabled veterans and other military personnel who enjoy outdoor activities.

For example, free hunting and fishing licenses are available to honorably discharged resident veterans with certified service-related disabilities. And free park vehicle permits and hunting and fishing licenses are available to active members of the Kansas National Guard. Count an annual event in southwest Kansas as another thoughtful way to show appreciation and support for veterans who deserve as much.

Combat-wounded soldiers and their families from Fort Riley, Fort Sill and Fort Carson were invited to participate in the 2013 Heartland Heroes Hunt in and around Garden City, an opportunity made possible by an army of generous sponsors. The annual hunting excursion would be one of many good, heartfelt gestures so desperately needed at a time the nation is welcoming home many new veterans.

Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have left a staggering number of troops with physical and emotional scars. Americans have an obligation to see to it that they receive proper care and support.

When it comes to veterans' struggles, Kansas lawmakers have much to consider. One top priority has to be doing more to fund services for those vets dealing with serious mental-health issues.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers should view the latest proposal from the KDWPT as a simple way to thank veterans who fought for the many freedoms we too often take for granted, including opportunities to enjoy the state's great outdoors.