The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Rob Langrell
Publisher 

Hunting excursion gives back to local vet

 

October 29, 2017

Courtesy photo

Jared Piepkorn, right, is giving back to veterans, including Dennis Johnson.

Later this week, local veteran Dennis "D.J." Johnson will be embarking on a hunting trip. A year ago around this time, he made the same excursion.

It's all part of a "give back" program that a local hunting and fishing guide service is trying to get started to thank a veteran for his or her service. Brothers Jared and Peter Piepkorn, owners of Wing River Outfitters, are behind the idea.

"My dad served 37 years total," said Jared, who lives in Clovis. "I've been around the military way almost all of my life. We're just looking to donate our time and resources as a thank you to a vet."

D.J. will be part of the journey organized by the Piepkorn brothers to a family farm in Hewitt, Minnesota, a small town with a population in the 200s. The trip will span about a week, with hunting for white-tailed deer encompassing four of the days.

The Piepkorns brought their idea to fruition in 2016 after several years of trying to connect with a veteran who would be interested in making a hunting trip. Jared said they had some discussions with members of the public affairs department at Cannon Air Force Base as well as a base where they had friends stationed in Georgia.

The snag: active duty personnel can't accept gifts like this, Jared said.

Jared said he met D.J. at a local gun shop last year and discussions about the trip blossomed. "He was interested and we worked out all of the details to make it happen," Jared added.

D.J. even got a deer on that trip last year — in just his second-ever hunt.

Both men recalled just how much fun and enjoyment they had during last year's expedition. They discussed the stories that were exchanged between D.J. and other members of the Piepkorn family.

"My Uncle Lee is a Vietnam veteran," Jared said. "He rarely talks about his time there. It was really cool to see him and D.J. hit it off. Lee told us some stories that we had never heard before. D.J. had some amazing stories too. It was like an instant bond."

D.J. grew up in Winchester, Virginia, and joined the military in 1993. He initially spent four years at Cannon before heading off to Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina for another four-year stint. He returned to Cannon and retired in 2014 with 21 years of service.

He's been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and sustained a traumatic brain injury. He said some days are tougher than others.

"That's what happens when you've been blown up eight times," joked D.J. in a very guarded manner.

D.J.'s role in the military involved defusing bombs and many other devices while in Iraq and Afghanistan. He also spent time doing post-bomb analysis where detonations had killed or injured scores of people.

"We just saw some really terrible, terrible things," D.J. said.

For D.J.'s sake, that all gets to change again this week when he'll be part of the great outdoors.

"My brother and I are doing this to show our appreciation for the military," Jared said. "People like D.J. are heroes to us. They're doing things we as civilians can't ever imagine doing. These combat vets, a lot of times, don't get and see the appreciation they deserve."

The Piepkorns hope to see their "give back" program grow in years to come. While the idea is still in its early stages, it has huge potential.

Kudos to the support they are lending veterans.

Rob Langrell is the publisher of The Eastern New Mexico News. Contact him at: rlangrell@thenews.email

 

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