When Army Staff Sgt. Jason Letterman awoke from the blast of an improvised explosive device that took off both his legs, he thought he might never again do the things he had always loved doing, specifically, hunting and fishing.
"I went through a lot of depression," Letterman admitted as he talked about the IED that ended his 16-year military career on May 22, 2008. At the time, he was serving in Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division. "A lot of soldiers go through it. Some soldiers come out of it; some soldiers don’t. I was lucky because my wife was there for me. She helped me get through it."
The Missouri native now making his home in Hinesville and working as a civilian on Fort Stewart said he grew up hunting, fishing and living outdoors, which probably was why he chose to be an infantryman. Although wheelchair-bound, Letterman said he still enjoys every opportunity to take his three sons fishing.
Recently, the Hinesville Hunting Club gave this disabled outdoorsman a year’s membership, allowing him to return to the deep woods, even if it’s from the seat of his specially equipped all-terrain vehicle.
"It’s been a challenge for us," hunting club spokesman Ray Stevens said. "But at our last membership meeting, there was not one dissenting vote (to take Letterman on as a new member). We’re a democratic organization, so we vote on everything. We took Jason on as member not just because he’s a wounded warrior but because he’s a friend."
Stevens credits his wife, Beth, executive assistant with the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce, with suggesting Letterman as a club member when a position opened. He also praised Clay Sikes, an independent builder who helped get the dirt roads and trails on their hunting lands in shape to accommodate Letterman’s ATV.
Stevens teased Letterman about not yet getting or even seeing a deer while another club member already has taken three deer this season. Pointing out that the club hunts deer with dogs, Stevens said a lot of people think that hunting deer with dogs is too easy, saying that all a hunter has to do is sit at his stand and wait for the dogs to chase a deer to him.
"I heard the dogs running, but they were nowhere close to me," Letterman interjected. "It’s not as easy as people think."
Letterman uses his ATV as his deer stand, either sitting in the driver’s seat or in a chair on the back of the vehicle. He said he prefers to use a 30.06-caliber rifle but looks forward to taking his boys squirrel hunting with their 20-gauge shotgun after deer season closes.
Numerous organizations have gone out of their way in recent years to reach out to wounded veterans who’ve lost some of their mobility but still love the sport of hunting. Stevens reiterated, however, that the Hinesville Hunting Club offered its membership to Letterman not just because he’s a wounded warrior but because he’s considered a friend and member of the community.