Over time, the NPLB regulars learned to treat veterans with disabilities as they would anyone else. Kittleman can now joke with an amputee about a missing leg. Most vets said NPLB makes them feel comfortable and relaxed. That, they said, distinguishes NPLB from similar charities.
And the bond is genuine. They go to sporting events together. The guys at NPLB paid for Albrecht to have baby pictures taken of his daughter. They rigged a generator at one veteran's house last year before a hurricane.
"It's really a retreat, a healing process," NPLB volunteer Billy Dove said. "We're trying to help them on the road to recovery to adapt, to adjust to everyday life."
While in outpatient care at Walter Reed last year, Ramsey was struggling with that adjustment. Though only 25, he has suffered three heart attacks. People stared at him in his wheelchair. Some laughed when he walked with his cane.
He stopped going out in public.
He couldn't go hunting. He wouldn't go near loud noises.
"I just wanted to stay in my own little shell and pretty much just sit there and wither and rot," Ramsey said.
Through Walter Reed, he connected with NPLB, but he was still unwilling to shoot. Finally, Ramsey asked Chase Savage, a friend of his who had been with NPLB for years, how he overcame the fear.
"He said, 'I pretty much just surrounded myself with people who didn't really care that I was hurt, that I was missing an arm, didn't really care that I had PTSD or anything like that,'" Ramsey recalled.
"And then I just went out there and did it."
On his first hunt, a bow hunt, Ramsey went with Dove, and within five minutes of sitting in the blind, a deer appeared. For the first time since his bowstring had snapped years before, Ramsey drew back, with Dove there to keep him steady. He released. The deer fell.
"I never really was a big emotional guy, crying-wise," Ramsey said. "I was a soldier, man. You don't do that. And after I shot that deer, it was — it was like nothing I've ever felt before because I had been so down and hard on myself because I pretty much had just given up."
After that, Ramsey was hooked again. He hung out with NPLB as much as he could before he moved back to Georgia.
Ramsey doesn't love talking about his injuries, but he opened up because he wanted to plug Dove's latest event, NPLB's Purple Heart 3D Bow Shoot at the Heart of Maryland Bowhunters in Marriottsville. NPLB will use the event as an outreach to the public and as a fundraiser. Typically, much of the funding comes from members.
At the event Aug. 19, active and retired members of the military will shoot for free, but members of the public can also come out and pay $15 to use the targets.
Ramsey, who now lives 17 hours away, can't make the event, but Dove offered to pay his travel expenses, anyway.
Ramsey has other plans. He's enrolled in college online and is planning a nonprofit in Georgia. He wants it to be like NPLB.
"Those guys saved my life," Ramsey said. "There's no if ands or ways around it. They actually saved my life."
Purple Heart 3D Bow Shoot
When: Aug. 19
Where: Heart of Maryland Bowhunters, 7930 Henryton Road, Marriottsville
Cost: $15 for public; free for current or retired military. All proceeds go toward taking disabled veterans hunting and fishing through outings sponsored by No Person Left Behind and Operation Second Chance.
Information: Call Billy Dove at 301-639-4104 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.