The Norton Honor Hunt.

I am home from the Norton Honor Hunt in Norton, Kansas.

20 disabled veterans were taken on a guided deer hunt in Norton, Kansas. The residents of Norton, population 3,000, raised enough money to cover the expenses needed for the veterans. Most of the veterans are not regular deer hunters due to their injuries or disabilities. Each veteran was provided with a personal guide to help stalk and go after deer. Volunteer meat processors were on stand-by to bag up the meat.

19 deer were shot.

Our friends rallied together to help the event. The Norton Honor Hunt was filmed by Killin’ It Outdoors. The veterans were interviewed and then followed around by camera crews. Andy Griggs flew in from Nashville to perform at the Honor Hunt Banquet. I came in town to interview the veterans because I knew every hero has a good story to tell.

They wouldn’t tell them to me.

Not those stories anyway.

I wanted to hear a war story. From any war, I didn’t care – from Vietnam to the current war on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. I wanted to hear about someone sacrificing their legs in the name of the United States. I wanted to hear about a man becoming a paraplegic because he saved a civilian’s child from a burning building. I wanted a hero’s tale. I wanted a scene from Hollywood. Good always trumps evil.

I was blind.

They didn’t have stories of valor.

They had horror stories.

Horror stories they would not dare tell a mom with two kids in tow. They only knew sickening stories. The kind of sickening one feels for that split second when you slam on your car brakes because the car in front of you is at a dead stop on the highway. The slow motion gives you time to pray for your kids in the backseat to live.

That kind of horror.

My friend, Will, fought in Iraq after college. He was first in his convoy. His job was to lead the route for his fellow soldiers – his family, his brothers, his loved ones – following behind.

His family didn’t live.

You could say Will was lucky. But to him, he would be reminded his friends were not. Will flew back home a year later. He arrived in Dallas and walked into an airport full of people he didn’t know. There were cheerleaders with signs and people applauding. Hugs and kisses and babies filled the terminal. He felt welcome but didn’t feel understood.

“You tell yourself you are fighting for America, fighting for freedom but it doesn’t feel that way. I feel appreciated at home but it’s not…it doesn’t really matter. It’s a horror story…watching your family disappear before your eyes. Julie, as your friend, that’s all I am going to tell you.”

Will isn’t the same person I knew in college. But I wouldn’t be able to tell you that from my point of view. He has always been Will. He was always the first one to buy me a whiskey in Aggieville when we attended K-State. That didn’t change.

Will bought me a whiskey as soon as I walked into the Honor Hunt Banquet.

The veteran with no legs offered a hand to help carry my kids’ drinks because he noticed my hands were full. He used his other hand to push his wheelchair.

The female veteran teared up when I told her we brought our dog’s ashes to be spread in the field she used to pheasant hunt in.

A Vietnam veteran wiped away tears before my 8-year-old daughter walked up to ask if she could shake his hand.

I am the one that showed up blind.


10 thoughts on “The Norton Honor Hunt.

    1. The babysitters fell through so I didn’t want to drive the 5 hours there and back with the girls. But we decided just to pull them out of school anyway to join us. I’m so glad they went. They’ll remember this forever.


  1. Excellent way to tell the story. We have become a plastic society that only feels when prompted by the media. The stories they tell are pieces of emotions to trigger a response from the public. Case in Point, Ferguson riots, school shootings (too numerous to mention), any war or conflict we have been involved in as a Nation……………just to name a few. Your story is real, very real. You can’t report what they see without living it. Thank you for your account of this event. The Madden family and all those people who orchestrated this had the right idea……….a generous heartfelt way to say thank you for their service.


    1. Thank you for commenting, I never know if what I write is relatable or not.

      And I agree the media prompts emotion in people to trigger a response. Most of the time that works but it’s not reality.
      I’m glad Norton put on this event. From what I could see, the vets had a blast getting their tags filled for the 2014 season.


  2. Julie, I was one ofthe 20 that participated in this “Honor Hunt”. I can safely say I met around 3000 new friends. Not since i left home over 20 years ago to join this thing called the U.S.Army have I ever felt more at home then I did for those 4 days in Norton. My guide was the greatest person I have ever met. As a token of my appreciation I put together a little box of a few things that would match the personality of the person receiving it. Some got cards of gratitue and others got some adult drinks for them and I send a little “Kansas” clear to kick off the new years celebration and well my guide got an award it was purple in the shape of a heart with Gen. Washington on it with the phrase “for military merit” on the back he deserved it more then I did (he cut his finger gutting a deer), all I did was get stabbed from not paying attention Iraq pretty stupid on my part. I would like ot thank the city of Norton for a great time, for making all of use feel welcomed, and for the greatest gift of not judging us. We all did what we had to do so we could make it back to our “normal” lives. hopefully this great event keeps happening. I am planning on going back next year to help in any way they would like me to, but I am definitely going to the banquet in 2015.

    “Scouts Out”


    1. I am so happy that you and the fellow hunters felt our appreciation from us and the town of Norton – enough so that you gave your Purple Heart to your guide. I was late coming this year, we had a babysitter dilemma. I will try to come back for the full experience next year. And I would be honored to shake your hand. Thank you for your service to our country.


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