WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — If you would have told Pat Horvath 15 years ago that he would be running a successful nonprofit that hosts over 30 events for veterans with disabilities, he probably would have laughed at you.
“Never, never” said the Vietnam veteran, when asked if he ever thought his nonprofit, Veteran’s Afield UA, would reach the level it has today. “Before I got my 501c3, we’re a nonprofit organization registered with the IRS, we had our first pheasant hunt. I took out three disabled vets; we put out 25 pheasants and we shot one.”
Horvath remembers feeling dejected following the first hunt.
“I came home, and I told my wife, ‘Well, we’re going to go from hunting to needle point. That’s it,” Horvath said. “We started getting some birds and then came the trap shooting and the pheasant hunts and goose hunts. I never thought I’d go this far, nor this well.”
Veterans Afield UA is an organization founded and run by Horvath, and his wife, to help fellow veterans with disabilities enjoy the outdoors that they served for others to be able to enjoy.
“They’re in wheelchairs, walkers, canes; it doesn’t’ matter,” Horvath said. “Paraplegics, quadriplegics; everybody shoots. I provide most of the guns, all the ammunition. Hearing protection, eye protection. The main thing is no matter what our events are, there’s absolutely no cost to the veterans.”
Celebrating its 13th anniversary this October, Veterans Afield is hosting 31 events this year for veterans to participate in. They range from trap shooting at the Waukesha Gun Club to pheasant and turkey hunting excursions. Horvath says it serves as a great opportunity for the veterans to spend time with their brothers and sisters in arms, and know they’re appreciated.
“It’s so hard to set these things up, but when they’re here, it comes together and I feel so good about it,” Horvath said. “My reward is seeing them content, seeing them happy. That’s my reward.”
Terrence Green is one of the roughly 40 to 45 vets that take part in events hosted by Veterans Afield.
“Pat is a Godsend,” Green said. “Pat won’t give up on you. If you can’t make it, he wants to know why. He’s always there.”
Green, who suffered a neck injury while serving in the US Army, credits Veterans Afield with helping him reconnect with himself and those around him.
“Veterans Afield gave me a second life. A second life. You don’t get that. A lot of people don’t get that,” Green said. “It brings tears to my eyes when I think about the things that Pat has done for us. You can’t ask for a better person.”
Green says he is hopeful that other veterans will make use of the Veterans Afield program the way that he has.
“Most of the guys that retire from the service, they usually just, they don’t have nothing to do so they don’t live any more. They stop living,” Green said. “It’s a lot of fun. I wish we could get more veterans to get out of their shell and come to stuff like this.”
A few years north of 80 years old, Horvath says he has no intention of slowing down anytime soon. He’s grateful to have the chance to take care of his brothers and sisters; one event at a time.
“It’s one veteran to another veteran. We all have been there. We know what that flag is,” Horvath said. “For six years, that flag took care of me. Now it’s our turn.”
Those interested in taking part in a Veterans Afield UA program or wanting to donate to the program can do so by visiting the Veterans Afield website here. http://veteransafieldua.org/index.html