MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
In 1919, the United States Department of War assigned a Canadian firearms designer to a U.S. government arsenal as a consulting engineer. He was tasked with designing a semi-automatic infantry rifle, which was soon to be known as the greatest rifle of its time.
The M1 Garand was to forge a legacy in war from its solid build and .30-06 cartridge, predominating in the battlefield over the German K98 Mauser. It is this rifle that military veterans chose to pass on to younger veterans aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, April 16.
“One day someone said ‘let’s rebuild one of these rifles and give it to an (Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom) veteran as a debt of gratitude,’” said J.J. O’Shea, founder of M1s for Vets, a non-profit organization dedicated to transitioning combat-wounded veterans to a competition shooting environment.
Since 2005, more than 200 refurbished M1 rifles have been presented to wounded warriors across the country. The first rifle was given to the first amputee to shoot as part of the Army Marksmanship Unit. Members of the M1 for Vets say they love seeing a service member’s face light up as they receive their rifle.
“There was this one corporal with psychological and physical scars, really withdrawn from life,” said Matt Gorby, member of M1 for Vets. “After he was given his rifle he went home and cried, he even slept with his rifle that night. He went on to shoot in various national competitions with it.”
With reactions like that, the group continues to tours the country, eventually visiting the Wounded Warrior Battalion-East aboard Camp Lejeune. Marines who have not shot a firearm since their surgeries ran through the qualifying course of fire with the M1s at the Stone Bay Rifle Ranges.
“It’s been more than two years since I have shot anything,” said Cpl. Jared Myers, a Marine attached to WWBn-E. “It’s uncomfortable for me to lay in the prone, but the more I shoot the M1 the more I fall into it.”
Myers had a spinal fusion operation in which two steel rods were mended to his spine, keeping his upper back straight and unable to bend or twist. After a few minutes of snapping into the prone position, the strain on his neck would start to build when aiming the rifle. However, Myers said the chance to shoot again after years of inactivity was well worth it.
“These service members give a lot by going over,” said O’Shea. “We show our gratitude for that with these simple gifts, but it means so much for them to get back in action again.”
M1s for Vets will continue travelling the country and visiting various military installations, giving a new life to injured veterans by introducing them to rifles “from the greatest generation to the next greatest generation.”
For more information about the M1 for Vets organization, visit their website at m1forvets.com.