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Local organization provides North Dakota hunting experience for injured veterans from across the nation

KILLDEER--Chad Grensky was invited more than 1,000 miles for a chance not only to hunt, but to heal. Grensky, from Norman, Okla., is one of 10 military veterans from across the nation who will travel to western North Dakota this year to hunt whit...

Chad Grensky from Norman, Okla., was invited by the Injured Military Wildlife Project of North Dakota to have an all expense paid hunting experience in western North Dakota. (Submitted Photo)
Chad Grensky from Norman, Okla., was invited by the Injured Military Wildlife Project of North Dakota to have an all expense paid hunting experience in western North Dakota. (Submitted Photo)

KILLDEER-Chad Grensky was invited more than 1,000 miles for a chance not only to hunt, but to heal.

Grensky, from Norman, Okla., is one of 10 military veterans from across the nation who will travel to western North Dakota this year to hunt white-tailed deer and mule deer.

Grensky got his buck outside of Killdeer on Sept. 9, but more important for him was being able to connect with an organization full of genuine people.

"The people of North Dakota, I've heard great things and now I've had the opportunity to experience first-hand the hospitality of the people that were born and raised in North Dakota," he said. "You just don't find that in a lot of places."

The Injured Military Wildlife Project of North Dakota is in its sixth year of giving deer hunting opportunities to veterans.

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Glenn Gietzen started the program for veterans to "thank them the North Dakota way" for their service and sometimes the loss and pain that came with that service.

"I wanted to start a hunting group in North Dakota and bring in wounded vets and take them hunting in North Dakota," he said. "We have great hunting up here and we have great people up here. I wanted to say thanks to these vets coming back, these wounded vets, the North Dakota way, the way Gene was thanked."

Gietzen, a veteran himself who served in Vietnam, lost his twin brother Gene in combat. He said after returning home in 1969 while accompanying his brother's body, he felt so much respect was given to his fallen brother in North Dakota while the rest of the country seemed to be protesting the Vietnam War.

So the idea was born to thank people like Grensky, who have given themselves to service and have physical and mental scars from that sacrifice.

Grensky served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed in Haiti with the United Nations in 1994. During his time there, he was injured by an improvised explosive device and while his body has healed from that injury, Grensky said he still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.

"A lot of nonprofits will bring out 15, 16 veterans out and put on a show, which just stresses us out," he said, referring to those who suffer from PTSD. "But this nonprofit in North Dakota went above and beyond with limiting the number of people and making it more personal. It was very personal and I appreciate that."

Ben Murphy, one of seven members of the Injured Military Wildlife Project, took Grensky on the hunt and said it's a rewarding experience to be involved with the organization.

"I've got to meet some really good guys," he said.

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Grensky said the highlight of the trip was walking upon his buck.

He said he came upon the buck on a green hill and saw "that massive buck standing there looking at me.

"It doesn't get a whole lot better than that."

Treated like family

The meat from the deer will be donated to a local food pantry and the Injured Military Wildlife Project is paying to have the buck mounted as a momento for Grensky.

Murphy not only took Grensky on hunts from Sept. 8 to 11 but invited Grensky into his home to enjoy food with his family and sit on the couch to watch Saturday football.

Grensky said he felt like Murphy was treating him like a friend or family instead of a stranger who he was taking on hunts.

Though Grensky and Murphy were able to venture out into the area on foot, Murphy said the organization is accomadable to veterans with mobility issues.

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"We have a couple of advantages that some people don't, but at the same time we have to work to get them," he said.

Veterans, while on the hunt, are able to shoot from a blind or from the vehicle if needed and the group is able to provide gun shooting during bow hunting season.

"We shot with a rifle," Ben said about Grensky's hunt. "We were the only people in the state shooting with a rifle."

The group is given 10 deer tags with six being for whitetails and the other four able to fill any deer tag, including mule deer.

Dan Dolechek, the board president and past mayor of Killdeer, said it takes a lot of planning to make the hunts a possibility, from procuring the tags to setting them up each year.

"It involves a little bit of time but nobody complains," he said. "It's definitely well worth the effort that we all put in. I don't think there is anything more rewarding for me."

Dolechek said they have received letters from people after the hunts and there was one veteran whose wife reached out to the group after her husband returned home from his North Dakota hunting experience.

"A few years ago, one of the hunters I took out-I didn't realize it at the time, but shortly after we finished his hunt-his wife sent us a letter saying how much it had changed him and brought him back to normal again," he said. "It was so awesome to have his old self back, as far as his wife and kids were concerned. I mean, it made a huge difference in not only his life but his family's as well. That was pretty special."

Dolecheck has two children of his own, ages 10 and 12, and he said it has impacted them to see real heroes.

"My boys are really into it too," he said. "They hear of heroes being football players or whatever, but I think they know what a real hero is now."

While everyone surrounding the project and organization is touched by the experience, Gietzen said they keep perspective of what it's all about.

"We try to show these (veterans) that we are here to support you, no matter what," he said. "It's not about us. It's about these guys."

Chad Grensky from Norman, Okla., was invited by the Injured Military Wildlife Project of North Dakota to have an all expense paid hunting experience in western North Dakota. (Submitted Photo)
Chad Grensky from Norman, Okla., was invited by the Injured Military Wildlife Project of North Dakota to have an all expense paid hunting experience in western North Dakota. (Submitted Photo)

Related Topics: HUNTINGKILLDEERBADLANDS
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