Abbie Kempcke was right on target at the sporting clay course's second station.
“She's schooling us,” BJ, her husband, said.
The Kempckes, as well as Matt Clements and Matt Baughman, put their shotguns to good use Saturday during the Out Beside You (OBY) Fun Shoot Benefit at the Pheasant Bonanza Hunt Club and Kennel north of Tekamah. The Blair group helped raise money for the veteran-run nonprofit organization founded by Dustin Davis, a 10-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps who lives in Washington County.
According to the organization's website, OBY serves active and transitioning military members, their families, and former and retired veterans of all generations through guided outdoor events. It provides patriots who have lived through war with a cathartic connection to each other and nature through fishing, hunting and agriculture.
Davis, a Hastings native, got the idea when he was forced to retire from the military in his position as a Reconnaissance Team Leader due to injury.
“When I found out I was going to get medically separated, I started getting pretty bummed out,” he said Saturday. “I knew I was going to get out, and I'd seen a lot of combat and knew I was going to have things to deal with.”
A corpsman recognized that Davis was feeling distraught and invited him on a veterans-only hunting trip through another nonprofit organization.
“And it did me so much good,” he said. “It got me into the outdoors and it got me around a table with guys that were going through the same stuff.”
That hit home with Davis, inspiring him to start a similar organization in his home state of Nebraska. That's when he started OBY, beginning with a 2017 meeting involving just friends and family.
He raised $3,000.
With those funds, Davis began taking hunting trips and spending time with veterans like him.
“It just kind of got me,” he said. “This needs to be available to as many people as possible.”
It's become the Blair man's mission to make that a reality.
“I joke around with my selfish reason for doing it — it actually makes me feel better,” Davis said. “I've been out now for 2 years, 2 ½ years, and this organization has done nothing but help. It helps me, but it's also helped quite a few other veterans.”
One such memorable instance happened in recent months. Davis took four Vietnam veterans on a walleye fishing trip to South Dakota.
“That was eye-opening because, now, I'm swapping war stories with dudes from Vietnam,” Davis said. “Think of the all the lessons that they've learned the hard way that they can teach us, the younger generation of veterans.”
It, again, showed the former Marine that he was on the right path.
“If we don't use the lessons learned from all of these previous generations, I just think we're wasting time,” Davis said.
OBY is to serve active duty, transitioning, Vietnam and Korea veterans. Davis wants to give each of them — and those who work as first responders — what they need, whether it be a step away from work for solitude or a group setting with like-minded people with similar experiences.
Saturday's shoot at Pheasant Bonanza was for two more specific causes, too. Davis hoped to earn enough funds to start a scholarship for Blair Youth Sports because of what it teaches — teamwork. Teamwork, Davis said, is important in sports, but it also played a tremendously large role during his military career. He wants veterans to know their teammates are still looking out for them.
One of the OBY founder's Marine Corps teammates, Matthew Lucero, recently died. He was laid to rest July 1 in the Sacramento (Calif.) Valley National Cemetery.
“Matt kind of got to that point where he was alone and didn't know how to reach out,” Davis said.
So, with Lucero's family's support, he and OBY have started the “Matty Lu” Project. The goal is to find a more permanent place for the organization's efforts.
David said about $10,000 has been raised in recent months. He'll keep going because it's what he's willing to do for his teammates — past, present and future veterans.