The phone rang.
Beth Burdette was at home, in the middle of making breakfast for 3-year-old son Cory, when she answered. It was her husband, Sgt. Justin Burdette, on the other line.
As he lay in an Afghanistan field hospital, Sgt. Burdette relayed the news. During patrol on a mountain in the Wardak Province he was hit with a 107mm rocket. It tore through his lower legs, leaving him a double amputee below the knees.
“His guys had to carry him down the mountain,” Beth told Florida Today publication.
His fellow soldiers, members of the 315th Infantry, administered First Aid immediately. After being treated in Afghanistan, the Army flew him to a base in Germany, where he received the Purple Heart.
Burdette is now recovering at Walter Reed in Bethesda, where he's been since June 14—Flag Day. Recently he was released on a day pass.
“His doctors finally allowed him a day pass to go out and do what he wanted," says Burdette's brother Cole, who still lives in Florida. "The first thing he wanted to do is visit a Bass Pro."
At the Arundel mall Bass Pro store in Maryland, Burdette spent three hours browsing with his wife and grandma. He looked at fishing and hunting supplies, and dropped roughly $1,000 on new gear.
"I bought a new bow, some arrows, and stuff to go with it," he says, opting for the Quest G5 Drive Package. “It can be an expensive hobby, my wife knows all about that," he jokes.
(Bass Pro Shops sent Sgt. Burdette a gift card at the time of publication to help outfit him for the upcoming season.)
Sgt. Justin Burdette didn't grow up a hunter. The Melbourne, Fla., native's father didn't hunt, though his grandfather, who lived far away, did.
Still, something about hunting always captured Burdette's imagination. But it seemed he never had the time or resources to make it a hobby.
After enlisting in the U.S. Army in March 2006, though, that changed. An Army friend took the then-19-year-old Burdette boar hunting in Georgia, where he was stationed at Fort Stewart, near Savannah.
Soon, hunting became something he loved. Whenever he could find time during two overseas tours—first in Iraq, then in Afghanistan—Burdette hunted whatever was in season.
Just last summer, he and a buddy went hunting in the rivers, marshes and islands in the woods near Savannah. He remembers it as the best hunting experience of his life so far. "We did pretty good," he says. "It was fun."
During that same time, Burdette also developed an appreciation of Bass Pro Shops as his outfitter of choice.
"Whenever there's a Bass Pro Shop, I'm always going to go to it," Burdette says. "I'm always looking to buy new stuff, and upgrade the stuff I've got. Bass Pro is the best place for me to go. I know where everything's at. People help out pretty good."
This fall, he’s looking forward to deer hunting as part of a recreational therapy program.
“They’ll (the Walter Reed therapists) take us out on hunting trips,” he says. “I’m trying to sign up for one in September.”
Once his doctors allow him to leave the hospital, he must go through a medical evaluation board to see if he can continue to serve (it shouldn't be a problem, he's heard). “That’s what I plan to do—stay in the Army,” he says.
Burdette didn't grow up a hunter, but he plans on being one for life. Hunter, however, is just a small descriptor next to the word that truly describes this man – Hero.
Bass Pro Shops commends Sgt. Burdette for his service and sacrifice. It is men and women like Sgt. Burdette that allow every citizen the freedom to pursue their passions.