The Link Between Veterans And Sportsmen

Daryl Kirby | November 20, 2018

The 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month… only one American holiday recognizes a specific moment in time. That holiday recognizes the specific moment when the papers ending World War I were signed. Originally called Armistice Day, the holiday was expanded after World War II to include all veterans, and then the name of the holiday was changed to Veterans Day following the Korean War.

In terms of importance, it should stand near the top for Americans, but unfortunately Veterans Day ranks among our country’s least-celebrated holidays.

How many folks celebrated our nation’s Nov. 11 holiday, Veterans Day? For most, family trips were not planned around the holiday, and nobody exchanged gifts. Nobody set off fireworks.

While on a national scale it doesn’t get the respect or attention it deserves, certain people pay more attention to Veterans Day than others, and if you’re reading this at and wearing camo, I’m likely talking about you. Rural folks, particularly those who hunt and fish, are generally more patriotic. Rural folks are also more likely to serve our country in the military. Rural folks are far less likely to kneel when our National Anthem is played, and far more likely to crack someone in the nose who does.

Rural folks, particularly those who hunt and fish, are generally more patriotic.

I saw it firsthand the Sunday before Veterans Day when my pastor asked the veterans in our congregation to stand and announce their military branch. In addition to feelings of pride and gratitude, I noticed two other things. First, it is striking how many men and women in our little small-town church are veterans. Second, I knew that almost every one those folks standing were sportsmen. They hunt and fish.

Even scientific research supports this. Only 19 percent of our nation’s people live in what is considered rural America, yet these rural areas were home to 26 percent of the soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The states with the lowest military fatality rates are New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, California, Illinois — all have large, mostly urban populations.

It is not a new phenomenon, that rural men and women are more likely to serve our country in the military. Hopefully you’re not too young to know the story of our nation’s most acclaimed hero of World War I. Alvin York was a self-described hick from a tiny speck of a town in the Tennessee hills called Pall Mall. He won a Medal of Honor and had a movie staring Gary Cooper made about him following his actions on a battlefield in France. Horribly outnumbered, Americans were being cut down by machine-gun fire. Sgt. York stood his ground. He later wrote an account of the battle in his diary:

“In order to sight me or to swing their machine guns on me, the Germans had to show their heads above the trench, and ever time I saw a head, I just touched it off. All the time I kept yelling at them to come down. I didn’t want to kill any more than I had to. But it was they or I. And I was giving them the best I had.”

When 20 Germans lay dead, the remaining 132, including three officers, surrendered to York—and seven other Americans who had survived the battle.

How’d he do it? York had an advantage that still permeates the United States military. He had an ability to shoot. He had been shooting all his life because he grew up a hunter. A link between hunting and military enlistment was highlighted by two sociologists from the University of Connecticut. They found that states with the highest percentages of military enlistees were the states with the highest percentages of hunters, and vice versa. They also researched and found a link between hunting and military service throughout history in other countries.

Veterans Day reminds the hunting community that we can be proud of our patriotism and service to our country.

The only negative the researchers found in the link between hunting and military service — hunter numbers are declining. And they expect military enlistments to decline in tandem.

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