In early October 2018, Ronald W. Neldon, U.S. Air Force, Ret., received what he calls “an act of kindness” from the Safari Club International Foundation (SCIF) and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF). Neldon is a retired Security Policeman (now called Security Forces) from the U.S. Air Force who spent 20 years working in security, law enforcement and antiterrorism, and is a survivor of the Khobar Towers terrorist truck bomb attack in June 1996.
In September 2018, Neldon responded to a Facebook post about Veterans interested in hunting and was contacted by SCIF. “Within no time, I was contacted that a bull elk tag for New Mexico Unit 23 was being donated to me; a disabled veteran,” said Neldon of the Foundation’s responsiveness. “Needless to say, I was beyond humbled and extremely appreciative of such a generous gift since I wasn’t drawn for a tag this year.”
In preparation for the hunt, Neldon reached out again on Facebook asking for advice on Unit 23. He was immediately contacted by Jason Cox who said that he and his friends, Nathan Gutierrez and Hank Pavlakovich, would do everything and anything they could to help Neldon bag a bull as a way of saying thank you for his service and sacrifices.
In late October 2018, one month after Neldon’s 21st surgery (a foot surgery), he found himself hunting with the trio who never asked him for anything in return. “During the course of the first four days, we spotted some bulls and tried to close the distance, but my foot and body just wouldn’t physically allow me to get into position,” recalled Neldon.
On the last day of the 5-day hunt, the group found itself in elk with Pavlakovich pointing out a bull in the herd. “I climbed down a steep embankment, which was really painful on my foot, but I had to work through that if I was going to get a shot,” recalled Neldon. “It hurt, but it worked, and moments later I was able to ease the trigger back and harvest a young, but sizeable 5x 5 bull elk.”
The sense of gratification and achievement that overcomes everyone involved in such veteran’s hunt is overwhelming. “I may have been selected for the tag for being a disabled veteran, but without the generosity of SCIF, Jason, Nathan, Hank and NMDGF, it would have never become a reality,” Neldon said as he thanked everyone involved.