The westward expansion after the Civil War was fueled by vets carrying their army rifles with them. My great-grandfather was wounded at the battle of Atlanta in 1864, and my grandfather learned to hunt using a .58-caliber war surplus musket.
After the Spanish-American War, President Teddy Roosevelt ordered a new rifle for our troops, and the 1903 Springfield was carried into battle by GIs in World War I and World War II. In 1936, the M1 Garand and its little brother, the M1 Carbine, were introduced, replacing the Springfield by the war’s end in 1945.
Much like my grandfather in the 1800s, returning vets from World War I, World War II and Korea used military surplus rifles to hunt when they returned home. Not only were millions of vets familiar with the Springfield and the M1s, but they made great hunting rifles, too. If you got a deer or elk in the fall with your rifle, you could feed your family with 100 pounds or more of healthy, additive-free meat.
Oftentimes, the returning vets took care of their wounded comrades by taking them hunting, as a way to try to repay them for the sacrifices they made. I recall special communitywide hunts for disabled vets. Gen. Joe Tiago of the Marines was the organizer of the event each fall, and disabled vets were assisted by members of the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars as they went in search of pheasants in the nearby fields.
This fall, as we celebrate Veterans Day, I’ll be thinking of the millions of guys who put their lives on hold to defend our country. I’ll also be smiling as I think of those same guys as they went in search of deer or pheasants or elk each fall. Thank you, guys.
Until next week, tight lines.
• Don Moyer, author and outdoors columnist for the Tracy Press, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.