El Paso Air Force Staff Sergeant Josh Solorza spent more than a year in Iraq training local Iraqi police forces.
When he returned from the war, he was hit with devastating Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Two servicemen he fought with took their own lives upon returning.
Along with the PTSD, one of the toughest things about returning home was reconnecting with his three children.
“I have three children, the oldest of which is 6,” he said. “I had trouble dealing with the casualties I saw. It affected how I dealt with my children. I have come a long ways since returning home through counseling and educating myself, along with turning over my life to God. I have a 17-year-old cousin, Randy Lujan, whose mom raised both of us.
“He doesn’t have a dad — I’m the only father figure in his life.”
Solorza wanted to reconnect with his cousin in a meaningful way, so his Air Force Wounded Warrior representative hooked him up with Gino Attardi, executive director of Tomorrow’s Hunter, an organization that lets returning veterans reconnect with their children through the outdoors after long deployments by paying for them to go on hunting and fishing trips.
“I decided to take Randy on the hunt in Bronte, near San Angelo,” Solorza said. “It was a private ranch with great hosts. They were so professional, taught us a lot about hunting and made us feel like family. I have found a new passion.”
On the second day of the hunt, a doe stepped out at 200 yards. Lujan had never shot a gun before the trip and was having trouble getting the deer in the scope.
“He was very nervous, so he handed the gun to me,” Solorza said. “I took the gun and he was my spotter. The deer fell right there. We have the venison in the freezer.”
Solorza said the country needs more people like Attardi.
“He has a passion to do this,” Solorza said. “I’m pretty sure he isn’t getting rich off of this. It is so hard to adapt and reconnect with my kids and Gino saw that kids were lacking that emotional connection, as well.
“I think it is a great thing.”
For more information on Tomorrow’s Hunter, go to their website or call Attardi at (505) 360-3336.