American Hero Trades Taliban For Taliaferro County Turkey Hunt
Retired four-star Gen. Dan McNeill came down the opening weekend of turkey season to hunt with renowned turkey hunter Claibourne Darden at his Taliaferro County farm. This is the location where Darden hosts the annual SEEDS Dove Shoot each September.
Darden and McNeill have been friends for a number of years. In fact, Darden convinced the general to give the keynote speech at the Veterans Breakfast at the 2014 National Wild Turkey Federation National Convention in Nashville. Darden had served for 15 years on the national board of directors of the NWTF.
McNeill grew up in a black dot town, a term used for a small black dot on a map, in rural eastern North Carolina. He did not go to West Point Military Academy nor the Annapolis Naval Academy, but he went to North Carolina State University in nearby Raleigh. He entered the Army with no advantages. He started off and spent a number of years as a Special Forces officer. Then he went into the mechanized unit and several other positions before going to the Army flight school where he became a pilot. Finally, he entered the 82nd Airborne Division, where he steadily rose to become its commanding general. From the 82nd, he rose to three-star general in command of the 18th Airborne Corps, which is composed of the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Airborne and the Mountain Division out of Ft. Drum, New York. From the 18th Airborne Corps, he received his fourth star and became a special op four-star general. In this capacity, he was sent to Afghanistan as the commanding general of all allied forces there.
“What did he do there? He whipped the Taliban,” said Darden. “That’s right, he whipped the Taliban. But things do not always end the way we like. McNeill and the thousands of special ops were prematurely pulled out, and the rest is history.
“It is not unreasonable to state that my friend General McNeill was the elite American combat general of his generation.
“It is to be noted that he is an honest to goodness hunter, hunting quail, ducks, deer and turkey. We are honored to have him as one of us.”
Claibourne said it was an absolute delight to have McNeill, who is a relatively new turkey hunter, hunt with him.
“You never had to tell him anything twice,” said Darden. “He completely got it the first time and understood exactly what it meant and understood the ramifications of what I said. Other things he just picked up by watching me and started doing them himself. I have never had anyone learn even half as fast as he did.”
Darden added, “But when you are a special op four-star general, what would you expect?”
McNeill didn’t shoot a turkey, but Darden said there’s a good chance he’ll be returning next year.
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