Engaging veterans in shotgun sports
Geelong Field & Game has introduced younger military veterans to clay target shooting with immediate success.
Many younger veterans don’t slip easily into the older networks of World War II and Vietnam veterans but they still want to meet up with contemporaries in a relaxed, social environment.
For many, RSL Connect is the bridge between new veterans and the broader RSL network. It provides an opportunity to build relationships while at the same time opening the door for the RSL to provide information and support.
RSL Connect is open to veterans from 1975 (post-vietnam) to current day, and gatherings predominantly involve fun, social activities. “We are all post-1975 so it is generally the younger cohort of veterans,” Geelong RSL president Andrew Hanns said. “As a day out, I think this is one of the best things for us; we all used to shoot in the services, but some of us haven’t shot for 18 or 20 years. “Rocking up, some might have been a little nervous but it is something we have all done in the past. Once they hit a few targets it became all about the fun; it is a really relaxing thing to do.”
Darren Stendt, a committee member of Geelong Field & Game and RSL Connect, brought the organisations together. “I’ve got involved with the RSL Connect program, doing a few sporting and social activities like archery, climbing and surfing,” he said. “As a member of both committees, I offered clay target shooting as a sporting activity. The environment is relaxed and there’s an element of teamwork because we want everyone to hit one, so it is a supportive environment.”
The day attracted veterans from Geelong and Bendigo but also Melbourne and Gippsland.
Darren said a number of Field & Game branches had expressed interest in hosting veterans. “Hopefully they can reach out, it would be good for both organisations,” he said.
Geelong RSL senior vice president Glenn Agnew attended with his wife Denise. “Although she hasn’t hit anything yet, she has a grin like a Cheshire cat,” he said. “I probably haven’t shot for 25 years but it is amazing how it comes back; either I got some lucky shots off at the end or my eye’s back in.”
Glenn said the event met all the critical criteria for RSL Connect: engaging, social and out in the broader community. “We should do this once a year; Geelong Field & Game has been just sensational, and it is really appreciated by the veterans,” he said.