Resident veterans from the William J. “Pete” Knight Veterans Home in Lancaster, Calif., participated in what has become the third annual target shoot event at the Mojave Elks Trap & Skeet Range, June 24.
“The Mojave Elks Club offered our resident veterans each a free round of target shooting three years ago and the vets enjoyed it so much that the club members have turned it into a yearly event,” explained Lawrence Hawkins, supervising rehabilitation therapist at the local veterans’ home.
The trap range is owned by the Mojave Elks Club and run by Elks Club members Bill Churchill, Bob Friend and Dave Cleveland, who are the trap masters for the range.
“The vets really enjoy the experience,” said Trap Master Friend. Friend says treating the resident veterans to a round of target shooting is the club’s way of thanking American veterans for their service.
“It’s a way for us to give back for what they did and do for us,” he said.
“Every shooter gets a red, white and blue medal at the end of the shoot,” offered Churchill.
Churchill explained that the target shoot is the real McCoy.
“The orange clay birds come out at about 115 miles per hour,” he said.
The number of resident veterans that participate each year varies, “We’ve had as many as 13 residents come out for the shoot, but this year only five guys were able to make it,” offered Hawkins.
Of the five resident veterans who participated this year, two are World War II veterans; Milton Harris and Jim Johnson.
“This is Milton’s third event,” Hawkins offered. “He hasn’t hit a bird yet, but he keeps pulling the trigger,” Churchill grins.
Churchill said the Mojave Elks is a nonprofit club and is about supporting the community’s young people as well.
“We taught 82 teenagers a hunter and safety course and we support the Mojave Youth Gun Club, the Mojave Rattlers,” Churchill said.
He said the Elks offer shooting classes at five different Southern California High Desert locations.
“Young people age 9 to 17 can join the Mojave Youth Gun Club for $50 and as members they pay only $2.50 for a round of target shooting.” He said the young folks practice at the Elks trap range every Thursday.
The young people also give back and come out to support the veterans during their time shooting at the targets.
Mojave resident Karen Gogstetter, a certified NRA (National Rifle Association) shoot gun instructor also came out to help support and lend a hand to the day’s guest veterans.
Gogstetter gets upset when she hears talk about gun control and says that’s all about fear.
“It’s a fantastic sport [trap shooting], and is part of our American heritage,” she said.
Gogstetter said she meets the most mature kids at the gun club.
Resident veteran J.R. Hail was the first to hit a target. Hail served in the U.S. Army from 1958 to 1961. He was a heavy weapons specialist. He shot 20 rounds and said it was a most enjoyable day.
The 73-year-old is one of the Home’s newest residents, “I moved into the veterans’ home in January,” he said and says life there is good.
“I’m enjoying it, everyone is very friendly,” Hail said.
After everyone had their fill of target shooting the guest veterans were treated to a leisurely lunch at the Elks lodge.
“We served meat loaf, mashed potatoes, green beans and cake,” Friend said
The Mojave Elks Trap & Skeet Range is open to members and their guests the second and forth Sunday of each month and offers a round of target shooting for a mere $6.
The kids and our veterans are important people to us,” Friend said.