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PEYTON, Colo. - Four soldiers who sustained severe wounds during recent military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan will take another step towards their recovery this weekend as they hunt for deer and elk in the hills and prairies of the Palmer Divide.

The four soldiers, all members of the US Army Wounded Warrior program, were issued free big game licenses under a new program created by the Colorado Division of Wildlife this year. The program implements legislation sponsored by state Rep. Marsha Looper (R-Calhan) and state Sen. John Morse (D-Colo. Springs).

"The Division of Wildlife is proud to be able to support in this small way the recovery of the soldiers who have given so much for the defense of our country," said DOW director Tom Remington. Up to 500 licenses are available for Wounded Warriors each hunting season.

Maj. Gen. Samuel Leffler (retired), said that getting outside is an essential part of the recovery process for soldiers who have suffered severe wounds, injuries or illnesses.

"That's the best medicine," said Gen. Leffler. "Spending time outdoors was a central element of their training. It's something many of them did regularly before they entered the military. And it just plain beats being cooped up inside four walls."

The four hunters will be hunting doe whitetail deer and cow elk on the Silver Spur Ranch, owned by Parker resident John Malone, the chairman of Liberty Media. The ranch is enrolled in the DOW's Ranching for Wildlife program. Guides from Tri-State Outfitters, which has the hunting lease on the ranch, were volunteering to work with the hunters this weekend.

"Hunting season was always an important time of year growing up," said Lt. Jason Mazzella, who suffered a severe leg injury when he was struck by a rocket while on combat operations in Afghanistan last year. "This is my first big game hunt in Colorado and I am really looking forward to it."

The Wounded Warrior program is a whole-person rehabilitation curriculum administered by each military branch. It is designed to restore soldiers who became severely wounded, ill or injured during their service in overseas operations since 9/11.

To qualify for the free big game license, applicants must be qualifying members of the United States Armed Forces Wounded Warrior program, who are residents of, or stationed in Colorado.

"For many soldiers, hunting was a cherished and very special event in their year," said Dan Prenzlow, the DOW's Southeast Regional Manager. "The DOW's Wounded Warrior license program is designed to help these men and women reconnect with the things that they enjoyed doing before their injuries. There are many units where licenses will be available."

During a brief ceremony at the ranch Friday, Rep. Marsha Looper commended the four soldiers, presenting each with a tribute from the General Assembly and a flag flown in their honor above the state capitol.

"Soldiers, all Coloradans salute your service," Looper said.

"They are heroes," said Wildlife Commissioner John Singletary. "This is the least we could do."

More information on the DOW's Wounded Warrior big game license program and other benefits offered to active duty and retired military is available at:

For more information about Division of Wildlife go to:
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