"Army Brat"

Tonya O’Tinger

I can see it like it was yesterday. The memories of my childhood living on Merrell Barracks in Nurnberg Germany. Some of the first things that come to mind are the cobble stone streets of the town and horse drawn carts filled with passengers or old world carvings. I can still hear the roaring crowds of the nearby soccer fields, and smell the fresh brezel (pretzel), and würstl (sausages)of Oktoberfest.

The year was 1978. I was at the ripe old age of 7 and about to start school. I have to laugh when I hear the old cliche, " I had to walk to school in the snow ", because I actually did. Each day was a new adventure. The world was mine to explore.

With a hot breakfast in my belly, and snug as a bug in my snow suit, out the door I went. Following my brother like a baby duck. Of course there were so many distractions along the way, it's a wonder we ever made it to school. There was the required making of snow angels, followed by hand picking a bundle of pussy willows. I loved the feel of the tiny rabbits feet between my fingers. As we got closer to the school, there was a quick stop at the candy shop for some gummy worms and a candy necklace. Life was so much simpler then

Earlier that summer, I had embarked on the task of trying to ride a bicycle. Unfortunately for me it was my older brothers bike.
A white stallion called a 10 speed. I was lifted up on the seat. My feet could barely reach the pedals with the tips of my toes. With hands on both sides of me for safety, and to steady my balance, I began to pedal. I started picking up speed. In an instant my Dad released his grip, and with all the grace and charm of a new born colt trying to stand for the first time, I was on my way. I weeble wobbled down the street, being cheered on by my father's Army buddies. With a big smile from ear to ear a thought entered my mind. " Hey, I got this!" Well that delusion soon vanished with my abrupt crash into a parked car. I was immediately surrounded by scores of soldiers at my side checking to see if I was okay. I dusted myself off and climbed back on to give it another go. We kept at it all afternoon, until I finally got the hang of it.

The next morning, when I awoke, I was coaxed to the front door by my brother. "Open it", he demanded. I reached down and turned the knob, slowly opening the door. There before my eyes sat a beautiful new bicycle. Complete with a bell and daisy embellished basket, all wrapped up with a big bow. The same soldiers who had cheered me on the day before, had all pitched in and bought me a new bike. I'll always remember their kindness, and the joys of growing up an Army brat.

Sadly, in the fall of 2009, my father passed away. In looking for ways to cope and find inner peace, I came across a new organization called Hunters Helping Soldiers. An organization that provides a means to enhance physical and emotional healing through camaraderie during hunting and fishing trips as well as mentor ship to help ease the transition from military life to civilian life and help families of returning, wounded, and mortally wounded soldiers cope with the challenges they face. Healing through the great outdoors. Being an avid waterfowl hunter and full time taxidermist, I knew this was my calling. I began talking with the founder of HHS, Scott Campbell about the mission, and how we could get more people involved.

We set up a face-book fan page, and in no time had climbed to 2000 fans. The public support has been great. By March, we had wounded heroes lined up for donated hog, deer & elk hunts at no cost to them, a new website, and a bi weekly radio show.

In an effort to raise funds to support the mission we began having auctions on eBay. Patriotic Americans from all across the country began to donate goods and services to be auctioned off, with 100% of the proceeds going directly to HHS.

Hunters Helping Soldiers is close to my heart. It's a way to say "Thank You" to our service men & women for their selfless sacrifice and service to our Country. They are the backbone of our Nation and True Heroes.
If you want to learn more about our mission, you can visit us on the web at : HuntersHelpingSoldiers.org and if you would like to donate goods or services please feel free to contact me at : Tonya@HuntersHelpingSoldiers.org.