In November, 2012, Alaska DU members and volunteers joined together to host retired US Army Staff Seargant Juan Aguilar with a sea duck hunt in Valdez. Read Juan's account of his duck hunting adventure, and his thank you letter to those who made it possible.
Thank you, Juan, for your service to our country and the sacrifices you have made for all of us!
Hello, my name is Juan Aguilar. I am a retired Army Staff Sergeant currently living in Anchorage Alaska where I was last stationed before I was retired. I started my military career as a US Marine in 1993, where I was deployed to Somalia in support of Operation Restore Hope. In 1998, my enlistment ended in the United States Marines, and I chose to join the United States Army to help provide a better life for my family. In my time in the Army, I was deployed multiple times to Afghanistan and Iraq from 2001 to 2008. On November 26, 2001, I was wounded in Afghanistan. On April 16, 2003 I was wounded in Iraq. On December 31, 2006, I was wounded for the last time again in Iraq. I am a recipient of the Silver Star Medal, and a three time recipient of the Purple Heart. On August 26, 2011, I was forced to retire after being in the Wounded Warrior unit for three years, due to my injuries and wounds sustained in the war. Along with bullet and shrapnel wounds, I suffer from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Retired life has been tough when all you have known how to do is put on a uniform everyday and serve your country for seventeen years and nine months. I proudly served my country and felt the pride of being an American everyday, where I felt I was appreciated by my country. Once I retired, I honestly felt that no longer being on active duty would ruin my life. I thought that now all I had accomplished and all my time serving my country would not be appreciated anymore. Then during mid-October 2012, I received a call that really changed my life and how I felt about now being a veteran.
The call I received was from Dave Weber, the Regional Director of Ducks Unlimited in Anchorage Alaska. When he introduced himself, the first thing that came to mind and I said to him was that if this call was about my membership renewal, I hadn't received the paperwork in the mail for that. After laughing a bit, he mentioned that he would like to invite me on a Sea Duck hunt in Valdez, AK. Apparently, someone I know contacted Dave Weber and mentioned how much I enjoy duck hunting, so Dave Weber called to invite me on a Sea Duck hunt in Valdez, AK on the weekend of November 1st. At first, it all seemed unreal to me. Ducks Unlimited is my favorite organization, and to be invited to hunt along with some of the representatives of Ducks Unlimited, to me that was just an opportunity of a lifetime. After speaking with Dave Weber on the phone a few times, I finally met up with him at our local Sportsman’s Warehouse to go over the details of the trip and so that I could put my bags and gear in his vehicle since he was driving to the hunt. At the meeting, he gave me the itinerary for my flight to Valdez and said he would see me the following day. When I arrived in Valdez, Dave had already arranged for Bill Connell, The District Chairman for DU in Valdez, to pick me up at the airport and take me to the hotel where a room was reserved for me.
The next morning we had breakfast with Scotty Wilkins, the Area Chairman for DU in Fairbanks, AK. And Dave Bergman, the Area Chairman for Valdez, AK. During Breakfast, Dave Bergman mentioned to me that he had arranged for the Coast Guard to give me a ride in one of their bigger boats, so that I didn’t have to feel too much of the waves in the ocean. For the next two days, these fine gentlemen put on the best hunt I have ever been on. Although I don’t have as much experience in Waterfowl hunting, I put in all the effort I can to becoming better at it every season. Being that this was my first ever, Sea Duck hunt, I was very eager and excited to learn as much as I could about it, and these four gentlemen were great at showing me what I needed to know to be successful. Thanks to their knowledge and advice, I was able to harvest a really nice Barrows Goldeneye, which thanks to Dave Weber, Daniel William of Sea Duck Taxidermy in Kodiak, AK. donated a mount to me. So now I will have a great trophy of the amazing and memorable hunt. I would like to thank Ducks Unlimited for allowing me to be a part of this hunt. Words cannot describe how much it meant to me for DU to go out of their way and put on a great hunt like this with all the expenses paid. Thank you for making me feel proud again for my service to my country. It’s hard not to feel proud when generous and supporting people like all of you at Ducks Unlimited go out of their way to make a veteran feel as great as I do now. The gentlemen and Representatives of DU in Alaska are among the finest I know. I hope they can be recognized for the great treat they gave this Wounded Warrior.
Juan D. Aguilar
Staff Sergeant (RET)
United States Army
10th Special Forces Group
From left to right: Scotty Watkins, Dave Bergman, Bill Connell, and Juan Aguilar. The Lab’s name is Teek (Aliy Zirkle, owner).