Daniel Defense recently had the honor of hosting a group of volunteers from Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA).
The group consisted of 5 volunteers from across the U.S. sharing one common goal: to educate and empower disabled veterans with the necessary skills to get them back shooting in a safe and effective way. During the visit to Daniel Defense, each member of the group contributed in building a complete DD5 7.62 mm rifle that will be used at various HAVA shooting events across the U.S.
Currently operating as a volunteer-led organization on a national scale, HAVA was conceived and organized in 2007 by a committee of shooting sports industry executives to help the healing and re-integration of disabled veterans and injured active military back into normal American life through participation in outdoor events.
At present, HAVA’s network of volunteers and sponsors extends across the United States. Richard Cicero, lead instructor and one of the founders of HAVA’s Learn to Shoot Again program, explains “HAVA currently consists of firearm and outdoor companies working with public professionals to create the most effective ways to return our injured veteran population to enjoying all that life has to offer.”
Richard and his wife Lynn, both of whom were among the volunteers that came out to Daniel Defense that day, became involved with HAVA after attending a family day range event. After a short period of involvement, the duo got together with other members of HAVA to start a program that specifically focused on shooting techniques. “In January 2016, we drafted the Learn to Shoot Again Program (LTSA), and it was implemented that spring,” said Rick. “We travel the country now teaching veterans various aspects of shooting in classes, specifically focusing on those who have significant injuries and challenges.”
Rick and Lynn are no strangers to disability themselves as is the case with most of the volunteer instructors at LTSA. “One of the things that makes LTSA unique is that we are a team who deals with severe, life altering injuries on a daily basis,” said Lynn. “Who better to teach other injured guys how to overcome and adapt?”
Rick and Lynn’s method for overcoming an adapting? Teamwork. An uncompromising ideology that can be traced back to HAVA’s roots, teamwork is a fundamental part of each volunteer, and it extends to each of HAVA’s programs. The visit to Daniel Defense was no different for the volunteers. The group arrived with the task of building a DD5, and they set out to complete it together.
“Team work was the key,” said Rick as he explained the team’s approach to building the DD5. “We all put forth effort into the individual and team assembled portions of the rifle. This is how we approach our program and life. The military’s team mindset of “One Team, One Fight” isn’t a just a slogan, but a way of life.”
Just as it was conceived, the DD5 rifle created by HAVA that day will continue to be a symbol of team effort as it travels across the U.S. to train students and to engage in competitive shooting.
The first stop for the rifle will be Fort Gordon where HAVA-LTSA instructor and competitive shooter, Joe Caley has been tasked with sighting and testing the rifle to get it ready for fall shooting programs.
“In early September, LTSA will be visiting Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, where the Allegheny Sniper Challenge is held,” said Joe. “We will have about 10 Students and a few instructors up there getting to shoot alongside the ASC staff and regulars. This will be a great place to bring the DD5, as the rifle will be able to be shared with several students.”
The modularity and lightweight feel of the DD5 makes it a great fit for disabled shooters. But as Joe explains, the perfect pairing of an AR for his students goes beyond ergonomics and comfort. “The ambidextrous controls and the familiarity that most of our students have with the AR platform from their military service and our basic instruction course will allow them to get behind the DD5 and be able to effectively engage targets at long distance.”
The event in West Virginia this fall is just the start of a full lineup of events ranging from precision rifle matches to big game hunts. Anyone interested in volunteering, participating, or even donating equipment, is encouraged to reach out to HAVA-LTSA lead instructor Rick Cicero.
“Reach out to us, tell us how you would like to get involved, and provide some information about yourself,” said Rick. “You can contact us through our website at honoredveterans.org or by email at email@example.com.”
Veterans looking to get involved and join the HAVA-LTSA team, or family and friends who know of a disabled vet, are also encouraged to contact Rick. “We want to welcome those who want to be successful veterans and part of the community,” said Rick. “Reach out to us and tell us how you would like to learn and participate. Please provide information about yourself, your service, and the unique requirements to fit your needs.”