EDISON, Ga. -- The 6th annual Purple Heart Outdoor Tour arrives this weekend with more than 50 servicemen and firefighters, primed for a day of quail hunting and fellowship.
Tour founder and president, retired Lt. Col. Dan Hammack III, said the organization is now a non-profit entity. The tour had previously operated under the "umbrella" of Operation One Voice, a Georgia advocacy group for fallen and wounded military personnel.
According to Hammack, the 2013 hunt is focused on "special operations" military, such as Marine Corps Special Operations Command, (MARSOC), the Ranger Training Brigade, Joint Special Forces (JSOC) and others. Participating also will be a group of 9/11 firefighters from New York City.
Hammack said participants will meet Friday at Hammack's Southern Wilderness Plantation in Edison, where American Legion Post 30 will provide a barbecue lunch. A trap shoot and marksmanship competition will follow. On Friday evening, a reception dinner will be held at the McClendon barn in Leary, where hunters will be "linked" with individual host guides who also will provide lodging for the soldiers.
"We don't put (the participants) in hotels," Hammack said. "These hunters prefer to stay with the hosts so they can connect with the community and that's our primary goal."
Hunters will have breakfast together on Saturday morning at Edison United Methodist Church before traveling to one of more than a dozen area hunts in Calhoun, Stewart, Randolph and Dougherty Counties, Hammack said. After lunch, provided by the Edison Baptist Church, hunters will receive new hosts and rotate to new hunting properties.
On Saturday evening, it's back to McClendon barn for dinner and entertainment, as well as an awards ceremony, Hammack said. The primary award given is the Patrick Sweeney Memorial Warrior Recognition award, given in memory of that fallen firefighter.
According to Hammack, most participating hunters are senior non-commissioned officers and all have received Purple Hearts or have been cited for valorous service.
While South Georgia quail hunts are a major part of the tour, Hammack stresses that the organization is national in scope.
"There are three major components to the tour," Hammack said. "That's the pheasant hunt we have in Iowa, the California hunt for black-tail deer and, of course, the South Georgia quail hunt. In October of this year we'll have the first-ever Purple Heart Rocky Mountain Hunt in Wyoming, where we're going after mule deer. These hunts are an affirmation of what we're all about."