Getting that green patch and sewing RIFLEMAN (with a capital R!!) into my el-cheapo vest made a few things click in my head. This will probably be a long post, so fire up the coffee pot, or open up your favorite adult beverage and get comfortable.
This was my first event as an orange hat. After 4 grueling 8+ hour days doing transitions, boiling in the sun, rubbing my elbows on my shooting mat to a bloody pulp, having a permanent scar from freshly fired .223 scar on my left elbow, and some of the best firearm instruction I've had since I first shot a rifle as a youngster (and I've learned from Navy rifle instructors, various private instructors, IDPA competitions, and TDI-Ohio) - I accepted an orange hat.
I accepted this hat after being offered one by somebody who I am extremely proud to call a friend, Slim. For those who have not met Slim yet, understand this about me - I value the quality of my friends drastically more than the quantity. I have a small circle of them, but as time goes on, I know that they will be there for me, no matter the situation, or the hardships it puts upon themselves in the process. That fact right there, time has proven - and it generally takes a while to consider somebody within that circle. Not so with Slim - after learning so much from him in Gibsonburg last year, we finally caught up with each other at the beginning of this year, where I was able to teach him some things, and myself from him. The orange hat was offered to me by Slim away from the firing line, and I declined on the condition that I will earn that hat, after I earn that patch. Sadly, Slim was not there to pass on the orange hat when I accepted, but I am looking forward to working with him on the AS line in the future, along with escapades away from AppleSEED
. Meanstreaker, Hoover, Velcro, Buttstock - ALL of the instructors that I worked with this weekend are of the same caliber person that my friend Slim is - and trust me ladies and gentleman, that caliber is much, much larger than .50BMG. HUZZAH!
I literally wiped some tears from my eyes after seeing one of my other friends, Corey, accept the orange hat this weekend - HUZZAH! HUZZAH! HUZZAH!
The quality of the people that you will meet at various firearm shooting events have been, in my relatively young life, some of the best. Period. The instructors that I worked the line with proved that to me once again. The students - you reaffirmed this fact of life ALL DAY, EVERY DAY that we shared the cold wind, hot meals, and after hours around a camp fire. EVERYBODY was eager to learn - some resisted our ways at first, but eventually realized that they were there for a reason. Just because you have been shooting for 20 years does not mean you have been shooting well for 20 years - but it also does not mean you have been shooting badly for 20 years. We all learned things about techniques, others, and ourselves, even those of us who did not fire many, if any, rounds down range. As a particular red sweatshirt says on the back "The floggings will continue until marksmanship improves!"
That said, we had about 4 young boys, a few women of various ages, and the balance made of young men. Rifles on the line varied from 10/22's, tube fed Marlin's (semi auto and lever action), scoped rifles, iron sights, tanker .308 M1 Garands, AR15's, .22 AR's, etc. - a large variety, though most shot .22LR for a large portion of the day. Everybody was safe, and after some history lessons and marksmanship instructions, quite a few people started to know what they were about. At the end of the weekend, we had 7 new Rifleman(woman) - with a CAPITAL R! Everybody that did not earn a patch (yet) still learned the fundamentals needed for that patch, and I'm sure will sign up again for an event again in the future. I had a grin on my face that rarely went away as I saw things start to click for people - especially on the second day after a night of recoup, sleep, and some food. That nice slow trigger squeeeeeeeeze to the rear, stocks modified with duct tape and clothing to fit the shooter, feeling that pain in the shoulder from getting the elbow under the rifle - it was amazing to see the transformations take place.
The nationwide volley held at 4PM EST was extremely moving for me - almost a spiritual event. I'd like to think that this somber moment gave a connection to our unique experiment in liberty for many people to those that fought and died for the ability to call ourselves Americans. The mere fact that we are able to assemble peacefully, and fire a volley of lead without asking permission is one amazing right that a vast majority of people in the world can not experience today. Less than 5% of the world's population enjoy this right, and after spending last weekend on the firing line in the baking sun with a class mate of mine from China (who is now a US Army Reservist) - to not utilize our unique rights we have today, or much worse take then for granted and NOT remember those that fought for us less than 300 years ago is, in my opinion, a crying shame. That volley really did move me.
All in all, the event was amazing. The students - I honestly can not say any more about you than what has already been said. The young children - you guys are simply awesome. Ladies, thanks for coming out. It's great to see more women coming to these events. Fellas, keep up the work.
You're all rifleman/woman in my books - just that a few of you have a capital R ;)