A lot of you live vicariously through us during the week of SHOT Show in Vegas. Our friends and family do, too.
The number one question we get is, “Who did you get to see today?”
Obviously, I saw a lot of things; Les Stroud speaking at the Camillus booth, Lou Ferigno at Trident Fitness, Rich Graham’s service dog, Annette Evans shooting at the Sig Sauer range, and lots of awesome after-hours parties.
None of these experiences compared to the event that ranks solidly in the number one spot of awesome things I was blessed to be a part of.
For those of you who may be unfamiliar, Darrell “J.R.” Salzman is a champion logroller who grew up in Hayward, Wisconsin. ESPN has called him “among the preeminent outdoors athletes” of the last decade.
Salzman is also an Iraq War veteran who, in 2006, was in the lead Humvee of a fuel convoy traveling through Baghdad when his vehicle was struck by an Explosively Formed Penetrator (EFP). His right arm was severed below the elbow and his left hand was pulverized by the blast. He also suffered a traumatic brain injury. Because he is allergic to morphine, he was transported to a field hospital before any anesthetic was given. The first thing he said to the medic, indicating that his legs were uninjured, was “Its all good, I still have my legs, so I can still log roll.”
These days, JR is a devoted father to his 5 year old son, a fellow Wisconsinite, and freelance writer for NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom magazine, who sent him to the SHOT Show to cover “some presentation thing”, he told me.
Unbeknownst to him, the ‘presentation thing‘ was for him.
NRA’s America’s 1st Freedom worked with Thomas Manners at Manners Composite Stocks and Glen Harrison, Founder of Defiance Machine to create a rifle that worked with JR’s prosthetic arm. Watching the presentation behind the camera, JR was just trying to take it all in, until Chris called him up to join him.
Watching the NRA honor our veterans, talking with people who give freely to those who gave so much for us and our country, and having the opportunity to watch my friend receive a firearm that he can use effectively is good stuff.
That is the best show in Vegas.
Talking with Glen after wiping my tears and having the chance to hear from JR what daily challenges he faces with his prosthesis, we discussed how a lot of veterans like JR are left to work on their prosthetics after receiving them from the VA.
JR told us how he welds his own accessories for his arm, even showing how he has rigged his prosthesis to fit his needs. Glen and I both acknowledged how ridiculous it is that our brave soldiers are left on their own after literally losing limbs for their country.
“I mean, we obviously have the machinery, these guys would gladly do everything they could to help JR with his prosthesis, but how can we help without knowing who needs help and what they need?” Glen said to me after the presentation.
Of course, JR is one of the most modest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of calling friend, and many veterans not only share his challenges, but also his humility. I for one, am just thrilled I was able to witness a rare moment in which he had to put his humility aside to be honored for his service.