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A Profile in Courage

The author recalls a special hunt with a young man whose fervent wish was to become a duck hunter
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  • Martin Blaisdell with two ducks he bagged while hunting with Jim Kennedy and his Lab Winston.
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By Jim Kennedy

No one should ever ask me—or any other crazy duck hunter—to write or speak about our most memorable duck hunt. Because, as I get older, the most memorable hunt is likely the one I've just been on. I can recall every detail, and keep replaying it in my mind until the next adventure in a duck blind.

When I take time to really reflect, I remember certain special moments. My children's first duck hunts have to rank at the top of the list, followed by other youngsters and their first hunts. It's hard to forget the excitement in those young faces as my Lab retrieved their first ducks. 

But I suppose one young man's first duck hunt stands above all others in my memory bank. His name is Martin Blaisdell, and his story is one of rugged determination and unbelievable courage.

I met Martin, who was 14 at the time, through his mom, who works down the hall from me and said one day that her son wanted to become a duck hunter. Sandy told me that Martin, after watching me appear on a Ducks Unlimited television show, wondered if he might be strong enough to ever go duck hunting.

You see, Martin had been battling cancer for half of his young life and he didn't know what the future had in store for him. That was all it took for me to make the commitment to take Martin hunting during the upcoming season. I hoped it would give him the incentive to continue his battle so that he would be strong enough to handle a gun safely.

The first order of business was to sign him up as a Ducks Unlimited Greenwing so he could get all the material, read the magazine, and think about his upcoming hunt. When Martin and his family took a tour of DU headquarters after a trip to St. Jude's Hospital in Memphis for treatment, Martin fell in love with DU and all the duck hunting memorabilia in the main lobby. 

At work, I often talked with his mom about the upcoming duck season and Martin's commitment to being strong enough to go. Though Martin's treatment for cancer was long and tough, and would have probably humbled a professional athlete, Martin faced it with unbelievable resolve. 

As it always does, the close of the duck season came way before I was ready. But that year I had something extra-special to look forward to. Martin and his dad, Alan, would be joining me the first weekend of February 2005 for the South Carolina Youth Waterfowl Hunt. 

They arrived Friday evening at my family's farm in the Lowcountry, near Beaufort. That night we went through the usual prehunt ritual of making sure waders fit and all the equipment was ready to go for an early morning start.

Martin was going to be shooting a 20-gauge Remington 1100 Youth Model shotgun that had helped my wife and all three of our children kill their first ducks. Martin proudly showed me his Ducks Unlimited waterfowl identification guide and told me he was going to try to pick out the ducks we saw the next day. 

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