The Jackson County Hunting Heroes provide veterans with the opportunity to spend time with other veterans in a setting that enables them to be themselves with those who know and understand what they have gone through.
The hunters are chosen based on recommendations from therapists who work closely with the veterans. The event is considered a type of therapy for those who suffer from conditions such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), a disorder in which a person has difficulty recovering after experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
Parchment Valley Conference Center hosts the JCHH each year for their annual hunt. Every veteran is provided with a hunting license, lodging, meals, a guide, meat cutting service, and a weapon to use during their hunt, all free of charge.
All those administering and participating as guides, meat cutters, cooks, etc. are volunteers.
The FFA chapter from Ripley High School handles the meat the hunters bring in. From skinning the deer to cutting, preparing, and packaging the meat, they volunteer their services to help those, who through their service have helped them.
The seventh annual JCHH hunt recently took place at the PVCC on Dec. 19-22, with 27 veterans in attendance, including one female.
Nanette Copen of Roane County was the only woman attending this year’s hunt, making her the fifth female veteran to have participated in the event.
Copen is an Army veteran who was active for four years as a lance missile crew member, a male dominant field recently opened up to women.
Suffering with PTSD, Copen said her therapist recommended her for the hunt and she feels grateful that she did. She said she had an amazing time and everyone was so gracious and welcoming to her.
Copen was paired with guide Christy Sizemore, executive director of the Jackson County Community Foundation. She said Sizemore took her to her property and to her family’s property in order to hunt.
“It was amazing,” Copen said. “She treated me like family.”
On the very first day of the hunt, Copen shot and killed a doe with her muzzleloader. She hoped to get a buck on the second day; however, there were none to be seen.
Copen said she appreciated all the students that helped with the processing of the meat.
“I’m a disabled veteran, so I mean I can’t process my meat or even cut it up,” Copen said. “To have it processed could cost up to $85 or $100, so I think what they do is really neat. It’s definitely going to help me this winter.”
One thing that Copen said she is really excited about is seeing the video of her hunt. Copen’s hunt was filmed by Tommy Hartley, a local videographer who is currently in the process of editing and preparing the video to be sent to Copen.
Copen described her experience with the JCHH as an “awesome” experience, and she looks forward to participating in more veteran events in Jackson County in the future.
Not only was the hunt Copen’s first JCHH experience, but it was Sizemore’s first time being a guide for the JCHH. She said it was a great experience and it is something that she would enjoy doing again as well.
According to Frank Miller, director of the PVCC, in the seven years Parchment Valley has been hosting the JCHH hunts, over 125 veterans have been served through the program.