WAUKESHA, Wis. (CBS 58) — If you had told Pat Horvath 15 years ago that he would successfully run a nonprofit that hosts more than 30 events for disabled veterans, he probably would have laughed at you.
“Never, never,” the Vietnam veteran said, when asked if he thought his nonprofit organization, Veteran’s Afield UA, would reach the level it has today. “Before I got my 501c3, we’re an IRS registered nonprofit, we had our first pheasant hunt. I took out three disabled vets; we took out 25 pheasants and we shot some a.”
Horvath remembers feeling discouraged after the first hunt.
“I came home and said to my wife, ‘Well, we’re going to go from hunting to needlepoint. That’s it,” Horvath said. “We started out with bird shooting, then came trapping, pheasant hunting and goose hunting. I never thought I would go this far or this well.”
Veterans Afield UA is an organization founded and run by Horvath and his wife, to help other veterans with disabilities enjoy the outdoors they served for others to enjoy.
“They’re in wheelchairs, walkers, canes; whatever,” Horvath said. “Paraplegics, quadriplegics; everyone shoots. I provide most of the guns, all of the ammunition. Hearing protection, eye protection. The bottom line is that whatever happens to us, there’s absolutely no cost to veterans fighters.”
Celebrating its 13th anniversary in October, Veterans Afield is hosting 31 events this year for veterans to attend. They range from trap shooting at the Waukesha Gun Club to pheasant and turkey hunting excursions. Horvath says it’s a great opportunity for veterans to spend time with their brothers and sisters in arms and know they’re appreciated.
“It’s so hard to put these things together, but when they’re here, it just falls into place and I feel so good about it,” Horvath said. “My reward is to see them satisfied, to see them happy. That’s my reward.”
Terrence Green is one of approximately 40-45 vets who participate in Veterans Afield events.
“Pat is a godsend,” Green said. “Pat won’t give up on you. If you can’t come, he wants to know why. He’s still here.”
Green, who injured his neck while serving in the U.S. military, credits veterans for helping him reconnect with himself and those around him.
“Veterans Afield gave me a second life. A second life. You don’t understand that. A lot of people don’t understand that,” Green said. “It brings tears to my eyes when I think of the things Pat has done for us. You couldn’t ask for a better person.”
Green says he hopes other veterans will use the Veterans Abroad program like he did.
“Most guys who retire from service, they usually have nothing to do, so they don’t live anymore. They stop living,” Green said. “It’s a lot of fun. I wish more veterans would come out of their shells and come to stuff like that.”
A few years north of 80, Horvath says he has no plans to slow down anytime soon. He is grateful to have the chance to take care of his siblings; one event at a time.
“It’s a veteran to another veteran. We’ve all been there. We know what that flag is,” Horvath said. “For six years this flag has taken care of me. Now it’s our turn.”
Those interested in participating in a Veterans Afield UA program or wishing to donate to the program can do so by visiting the Veterans Afield website here. http://veteransafieldua.org/index.html