Area veteran’s hunting trip was opportunity of a lifetime
By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times Editor
For Army National Guard veteran Adam Eilers, the last few years have been all about chances—a chance IED explosion in Afghanistan, a chance connection with a champion of veterans, a chance to go on the hunting trip of a lifetime.
Eilers, 27, who currently lives near Garnavillo, began his military career between his junior and senior years of high school. Since then, he has visited a dozen countries. Germany was his favorite. He especially enjoyed the “really strong” beer and Munich’s famed Oktoberfest celebration. While he was there, he even contacted a foreign exchange student he had met in high school and got to take a two-day tour of some of the less-touristy sites with her and her family.
“If I had to live anywhere else, I’d live there,” Eilers said of Germany, “but Austria was cool too.”
In Feb. 2012, Eilers’ military career had taken him to Afghanistan. He was in the front passenger seat of an armored vehicle with 350 to 400 pound doors when the vehicle was taken out by an IED, or improvised explosive device, which rolled the vehicle and flipped it on its top. Eilers’ right arm was left hanging outside the door and had to be dug out of the sand. Ironically, that arm wasn’t even broken. However, his left one was, along with his left leg and some of his vertebrae. One of his lungs also collapsed and part of his skull had to be removed in order to relieve some of the pressure.
Eilers said that particular IED was 250 pounds—the largest one found in the province where he was stationed. As a result of his injuries, he spent nine months in the hospital, and was shuttled everywhere from Afghanistan to Germany, England to Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis to Washington State.
Back home in Sept. 2012, Eilers was invited to a dinner attended by Mike Ehredt, who had made a stop in Guttenberg during his trek from Minnesota to Texas in Project Run America. For the run, Ehredt placed thousands of American flags—one every mile—honoring soldiers and Marines who were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Later, Ehredt got in touch with Eilers, telling about a program in Wyoming called Honoring our Veterans, which has provided roughly 80 recreational and social opportunities for wounded veterans since its inception in 2008. At first, Eilers said, Ehredt touted a fishing trip. However, since Eilers already lives along the Mississippi, he didn’t think fishing could get any better than that. Then Ehredt mentioned an elk or antelope hunt.
“Now we’re talking,” Eilers said.
Eilers traveled to Wyoming at the end of September and spent two weeks elk hunting. Honoring our Veterans paid for the whole experience—the license, hotel, gas and coolers used to transport the meat home. The program even paid to fix a flat tire that Eilers’ vehicle sustained in Nebraska. For the hunting trip itself, volunteer guides were provided.
Eilers hunted with eight other veterans—five of which hunted elk, while four hunted antelope—and said they were all able to fill their tags. Eilers said his 480-pound elk was the heaviest of the bunch, while the rack was comparable in size to the others.
Now, Eilers has settled back into life back home and has been busy renovating an old farmhouse outside Garnavillo. However, the experience will not soon leave his memory.
“It was a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he said. “If it wasn’t for this program, I probably never would have been able to go.”