Jordan Brentlinger served in the U.S. Navy in various overseas commands in physical security and protection of assets. That’s a military euphemism for escorting, protecting, and serving as a bodyguard for high-ranking officials, diplomats, and POWs captured by the Taliban who were brought back to the U.S. for their protection.
Brentlinger served from 2010 to 2015.
His duties included escorting personnel from foreign nations to America in hostile situations many times, but also something as mundane as escorting someone to the base commissary.
He served as a firearms instructor initially, then moved to personal protection. The firearms instructor billet proved to be valuable later in life as a civilian gunsmith and firearms instructor.
“I worked in Guam, Germany, Italy, and Australia, all over the world,” Brentlinger said.
In the course of that work, the North Parker, Colorado resident found himself in a less than delicate situation with one escort.
Brentlinger defended the escort in hand-to-hand combat, and in the ensuing melee, hit his head on the concrete and suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI).The injury led to his leaving the Navy and a motorcycle accident a year later added to the TBI trauma.
Brentlinger grew up around guns as a kid in Castlerock, Colorado, but it was the Hunt with Heroes program that proved to be a life-changing experience.
He earned a degree in gunsmithing from the Colorado School of Trades in a 14-month program and went to work for the company after graduation as an instructor. It was there that he came in contact with the Hunt with Heroes program.
“I’d never been antelope hunting in my life,” Brentlinger said. “I’d never seen one up close. Getting to know Trapper (Bradshaw), Brian (Tucker) and Shawn (Steffen) was a hoot.”
Steffen, the owner of Non-Typical Services and Logistics, a Shoshoni based company, sponsored the event.
Tucker and Bradshaw were experienced local hunters who have led disabled veterans on antelope, deer, and elk hunts in Fremont County, Wyoming for many years.
“I grew up in Castlerock and learned how to hunt properly , what to look for, but this, it’s a completely different ballgame,” Brentlinger said. “Getting with other veterans, and sharing that same commonality, and truly decompressing. There wasn’t a moment on those fields that I thought about problems back home. That program is life-changing.”
Brentlinger maintains contact with the other veterans on the hunt, and with Tucker, Bradshaw, and Steffen.
In addition to his TBI, Brentlinger suffered a fractured disk in his spine and two bulging disks. “It really sent me over on some mental challenges,” Brentlinger said.
Brentlinger’s first pronghorn hunt was a memorable one, one that will be etched in his mind forever.
“I shot the goat with Trapper’s custom 6.5 short action magnum at somewhere between 220 and 250 yards,” Brentlinger said. “We crawled through a cornfield to get closer. We saw a big one at 700 to 800 yards, but that’s too far for me. I shoot all the time, I’m familiar with pulling the trigger.”
While Brentlinger is a seasoned veteran, he doesn’t have the legacy that many of the older veterans on the hunt had.
“Some of the older guys on the hunt hadn’t shot since Vietnam, the last time they picked up a gun was when they were in combat, shooting at people,” Brentlinger said.
While the hunt was memorable, there are reasons Brentlinger is hesitant to do it again.
“I would say the only reason I wouldn’t go back is to give the opportunity to other veterans, it was one of the most incredible experiences of my life,” Brentlinger said.
As part of the Hunt with Heroes experience, they hold a banquet to honor the veterans and introduce them at a football game played at nearby Shoshoni High School, home of the 2021 state football champions.
“The antelope hunt, the football game, and the stories from those Vietnam guys was incredible,” Brentlinger said. “It was unique. I will never forget.”
Randy Tucker is a retired history teacher and freelance writer from western Wyoming. He has a lifetime of experience in farming, ranching, hunting and fishing in the shadow of the Wind River Mountains. Contact him at [email protected].