As Memorial Day approaches, Operation Outdoor Freedom celebrates its second successful season of hunting events. The program, launched by Commissioner of Agriculture Adam H. Putnam in 2011 and led by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Florida Forest Service, has hosted more than 300 wounded veterans on hunts, fishing trips and tours of state lands.
“These men and women risked their lives to protect our country, and we’re proud to honor their service on Memorial Day and every day,” Commissioner Putnam said. “Operation Outdoor Freedom invites our nation’s heroes to enjoy the beauty and recreational opportunities of Florida’s great outdoors.”
Operation Outdoor Freedom offers wounded veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces recreational opportunities on state forest lands, including guided hunting events and fishing trips. During the recent hunting season, which ended last month, deer hunts, turkey hunts and hog hunts took place throughout Florida from Pine Log State Forest in Washington County to Picayune Strand State Forest in Collier County.
Since Operation Outdoor Freedom was established in 2011, the Florida Forest Services has hosted 50 Operation Outdoor Freedom events on 15 state forests, private ranches and timber lands and the state’s coast. For some of the wounded veterans who participated, it was the first opportunity to get outdoors since returning home from duty. The Florida Forest Service is currently planning fishing trips for wounded veterans this summer.
In 2011, Commissioner Putnam, along with Sen. Alan Hayes and Rep. Greg Steube, introduced legislation to allow special hunt areas on state lands and to allow the state to accept private donations for the program. The state’s Florida Forest Service had already been working with the Wounded Warrior Project to accommodate wounded veterans in outdoor recreation events on state forests before the program’s launch.
Areas of Florida State Forests dedicated to this effort are fully equipped to accommodate the needs of wounded veterans, providing a unique opportunity for recreation and rehabilitation. All funding for the hunts is generated through private donations. Veterans participate at no charge. For more information on Operation Outdoor Freedom, go to www.operationoutdoorfreedom.