AVON, Minn. (FOX 9) - It was an incredible adventure for a 97-year-old World War II combat veteran injured in the Battle of Iwo Jima.
Bob Boyd, recipient of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star, had the opportunity to do something he loves once more – pheasant hunting with one of his grandsons. And it was all thanks to a Minnesota veterans non-profit and a sophisticated all-terrain wheelchair.
"I have never even seen anything like this… absolutely astounded," said Boyd as he was strapped into the Action Trackchair. "My God, I could land at Normandy in this."
Nearly 100 years old, Boyd explained, he will try anything once. "Oh, just a delight," Boyd told FOX 9’s Paul Blume once out in the fields of central Minnesota. "I am having a little trouble getting used to this machine here. It's a marvel."
With guides from Sand Pine Pheasants in Avon leading the way, Boyd was joined by his grandson Chris Otto as well as Sam Carlson, founder of Mandatory Fun Outdoors. Her organizational mission is to provide unique outdoor experiences that foster camaraderie, unity, healthy living, and healing for veterans and their families.
"He is really a special guy," she told Blume. "He's a hero, a hero."
Carlson made Boyd’s adventure a reality following a recent chance encounter at the dentist's office. Boyd was getting some dental work done at Carlsons’ brother’s office in Nisswa. And she had just purchased the state-of-the-art, all-terrain wheelchair. Carlson insisted Boyd be the first one to use it.
Carlson explained, "He was talking that he does not walk really well. And I said, ‘We got this track chair. It will stand you right up and get you moving forward, and it is going to be awesome.’ And he said, ‘When do we go?’"
As soon as the birds took flight, Bob was ready, shotgun shouldered.
"Control your body," he said about his hunting routine. "Control your breathing. Control your eyesight, and be ready."
He barely missed one pheasant, knocking off some feathers. But he would not go home empty-handed, thanks to his grandson. The pair had not hunted together in a decade. Carlson was humbled to make family memories for those final few members of America’s greatest generation.
"I want to serve those who have served our country," said Carlson.
Concluded Boyd, who has two daughters, five grandchildren, and nine great-grandchildren and spends half the year in Minnesota at a cabin in Pequot Lakes, and the rest of the year in Nebraska, "We are fortunate. We were born in the United States of America. It is the greatest country in the world."