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Paralyzed Veterans host Ocala shoot

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By The Staff

Wheelchairs won’t keep the Paralyzed Veterans of America from a good time. From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Armed Forces Day, Saturday, May 16, the Central Florida chapter of the PVA will host its second Disability Air Rifle and Bow Competition at the Ocala Gander Mountain, 3970 S.W. 3rd St.

The PVA hopes the shoot will attract novice and experienced shooters and archers. “This is a wonderful opportunity for the disabled and able-bodied alike to support veterans and raise awareness that seeming handicaps can be overcome,” offered Jim Trago, board member of the local PVA chapter, and director of the shoot.

Buford Blizzard, sports director, said years of having a disability has taught him nothing can keep a good shooter down. “If they can blow a breath, they can shoot a gun,” he remarked. “It’s that simple.”

The group especially hopes families with special-needs children will attend.

“Disabled children are more than invited,” Blizzard continued. “I bought three children’s rifles for the event.”

Blizzard noted that the competition is a National Rifle Association-certified event, and instructors will be on hand. One of them is a local PVA associate member, Morris Duty.

“I’m able-bodied,” Duty explained. “I’m not paralyzed. I’ve never been a veteran. But I feel there are some guys out there, maybe younger guys who were in Iraq or Afghanistan, who’d like to get involved in some things.” Duty joined the Central Florida PVA a few years ago after befriending past president Michael Combs.

The U.S. Congress chartered the PVA in 1946. A core mission is to help wheelchair-bound vets acclimate to their disabilities and excel in spite of them. To join, one must be a paralyzed veteran, or a vet with a spinal-cord disease such as multiple sclerosis.

The group is involved in legislative advocacy for veterans and the disabled, in addition to offering paralyzed vets help getting Veterans Administration services. It also has an extensive sports program to encourage disabled veterans to stay active. Non-disabled and non-veterans may join chapters as associate members. The Central Florida chapter started in 1977.

While volunteering at the local PVA, Duty got the idea to teach wheelchair-bound vets his 45-year-long passion: archery. “I had a guy show up at the office one time,” remarked Duty. “He told me you can’t shoot bow and arrow from a wheelchair. I said give me a chair, and I showed him it could be done.

“We can come up with fixtures for his chair, so he could shoot bows. We can come up with anything. I know a (disabled) guy who shoots better with his teeth than I can with both arms and legs. If we get some people who want to learn, I can teach them some way.”

Duty also hopes gun and bow enthusiasts, along with able-bodied veterans, will attend the shoot to support the disabled. “Bring your equipment. Bring your stuff. If you don’t do anything but shoot and have some exercise with us, that’s what it’s all about.”

Trago explained that activity with socializing is important to all, but likely more so for the disabled. He said nationally and locally, PVA hosts many events.

“It’s to get (the disabled) out of the house, and give them things to do that are available specifically for them,” he offered. “We have available sports programs throughout the year, and this is just one.”

The Central Florida PVA and the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society will host the 23rd annual U.S. Open Bass Tournament on the Harris Chain of Lakes, Tavares, April 17 to 19.

For information about the shoot or fishing tournament, call the Central Florida PVA at 407-328-7041.

Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson started Armed Forces Day in 1949 after the creation of the Department of Defense unified the services.