Three Purple Heart recipients hunt here

When a roadside bomb struck Nicholas Vinogradov’s truck, the blast left him unconsioous with shrapnel in his hand and both eardrums ruptured, among other injuries. The Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient said despite his wounds suffered in combat, he has ways of coping.


“I would not do anything to put myself or others in harm’s way, but I would do what it takes to go on a dream hunt,” he said.


A dream hunt it was this past weekend for Vinogradov and two fellow Purple Heart recipients who bonded in the woods above Naples thanks to the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation Inc. and the event sponsor, the James R. Moore Memorial VFW Post 8726 in Naples.


“I feel spoiled,” said Vinogradov on Sunday night as he and fellow veterans gathered for a celebration recapping the weekend at the VFW.


The three Purple Heart recipients — Vinogradov from Florida, Staff Sgt. Derek Van Buren with the Reserve National Guard from Michigan, and Marine Corps veteran Jonathan Smart from Maryland — were treated to three days of hunting on 400 acres of prime hardwoods with 40 set deer stands over professional food plots. Their camp was a spacious hunting cabin in Middlesex with a full kitchen, big-screen TV and internet, woodburning fireplace and bar among other perks. Four-wheelers took the men to and from tree stands. The Naples VFW provided evening meals.


VFW member Jason Perry, who helped with the event, said the VFW raised over $8,000 to make the weekend possible. The local community and businesses helped through their donations, Perry said.


A top-rated nonprofit, Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation Inc. provides world-class outdoor sporting activities to Purple Heart recipients to help in their recovery at no cost to them.


The Naples group took six deer over the three days. But the experience wasn’t so much about the deer, the men agreed — though Vinogradov couldn’t help noting he got an 8-point buck the second morning, “the biggest one in the group,” he said. Smart had something to say, too, about his 5-point buck taken in less than two hours.


“Forget the deer,” added Smart. He and the others talked about the peace of being in the woods and sharing the experience.


“The camaraderie was instant,” said Van Buren, a WWIA volunteer. “Like we already knew each other.”


Van Buren said the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation gives more than 250 Purple Heart recipients outdoor experiences through more than 50 events each year in 32 different states.


On Sunday night, before the recognition dinner, VFW members were already planning to sponsor next year’s event through WWIA.


“This is the coolest thing the VFW has done,” said VFW Commander Bob Hubbard. “With what these guys went through, you can’t imagine ... we can do this for them.”