I have always believed losing a son or daughter is life’s ultimate grief.

There is no doubt central Indiana beams with benevolent outdoorsmen and women. This was again proven last weekend as a large group gathered at the Howard County Izaak Walton League for the fifth annual Sgt. Bradley Atwell Memorial Sporting Clays Shoot. This event was presented by the Albert E. Shockey Detachment of the Marine Corps League.

Proceeds from the event will be used to help support the families of fallen soldiers as well as youth shooting sports, scholarships and military honors for veteran funerals.

Sporting clays involves shooting 100 rounds from a number of different stations. It was developed to simulate scenarios one would encounter in real hunting situations. Over the past few years this has been the fastest growing shotgun sport.

Atwell was a seven-year Marine from Howard County working in avionics electronics on Harrier jets. On March 2012 he was deployed to Camp Bastion in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan. In the middle of the night, on Sept. 14, 2012, dressed in allied uniforms, over a dozen Afghan insurgents broke through the perimeter fence attacking flight lines and the barracks of American soldiers. Atwell heard the shots and immediately sent one marine to wake those sleeping, while he led three others to help secure his area. Atwell was killed by an IED while heroically defending his post.

At the time of the attack Atwell’s father, Vic, was at home.

“I had glanced at the TV when a scroll at the bottom told about marines killed in an attack at Camp Bastion,” he explained. He immediately called his wife, Kim, to verify where his son was stationed. “As soon as she told me that’s where he was, I knew,” he tearfully recalled.

A few hours later, at midnight, he heard a knock. Opening the door he saw several Marines standing on his porch.

“I know why you are here,” he told them wiping back tears.

“Sir, there is no way you can,” one of the marines replied.

But Atwell’s father did know. “You can call it a father’s premonition, gut instinct or whatever you want, but I did know,” Vic explained.

Even though the Atwells lost their son, he finds some solace knowing his death resulted in the saving of many other lives.

“I am also grateful for the Albert Shockey Detachment and the Howard County Izaak Walton League for hosting this kind of event,” he said. “The funds raised go not only to helping children but also families who have experienced this same kind of devastating event.”

All fallen heroes should be remembered for their ultimate sacrifice. But those same people, many who were mothers, fathers, brothers or sisters, who gallantly chose to put themselves in harm’s way to protect the freedoms and well-being of others, are also family heroes.

For the Atwell family, the benefit shooting event serves as an honor and remembrance for their son. It also provides funding to sustain programs that honor other American families who have experienced the ultimate sacrifice given by the bravest during the war against terrorism. It is because of all who served our country, past and present, we are granted our freedom to engage in our hunting, fishing and many other endeavors at our own discretion.

So who were the eventual winners of the annual sporting clays shooting contest? Everyone who took part!

USA BASSIN

Members of the USA Bassin tournament series recently came off a contest on Kokomo Reservoir. Participants in this tournament trail are limited to weigh in only three large or smallmouth bass.

After the scales had cleared it was Frank Brown who won the event with three largemouth bass totaling 5 pounds. Jon Myers reeled in second place with three fish totaling 4.94 pounds. Third place and the tourney’s “biggest fish” honor went to Chance Taskey with two fish tipping the scales at 4.92 pounds, with his largest weighing 3.19 pounds.

RESERVOIR TOURNEY

The Kokomo Reservoir Monday evening open team bass tourney continues to draw a large number of local anglers and better yet, families. The husband-and-wife team of Dana and Shawn Burton took first place with four largemouth bass dropping the digital scales at 9.89 pounds.

Jerry Pickett and his grandson Jade Pickett snagged second place with five bass totaling 9.02 pounds. The father-and-son team of Phil and Randy Reel raked in third place with four fish weighing 8.69 pounds. The team of Aaron Brewer and Alan Johnson had the tourney’s big fish with a largemouth topping out at 4.63 pounds.

John Martino is the Tribune's outdoors columnist and may be reached at jmartinooutdoors@att.net.

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