Future reality TV star Kip Benoit recently invited a few veterans for a weekend of alligator hunting as part of the Wounded Warriors program.
Benoit, 50, who is currently in the process of shooting an outdoors reality TV series for cable, has been hosting Wounded Warriors hunts for the past four years and has himself been an alligator hunter for 30 years. He said he does what he can to make it an optimal experience for the veterans.
“I let them stay here and we cook stuff. We cook gator,” he said. “It is a free trip for them really.”
Benoit said he feels the need to pay back those who have served on behalf of the country.
“Freedom ain’t free. It’s really not and these guys have sacrificed everything,” he said.
For his first hunt, Benoit said he took out a former soldier who had substantial injuries from his time in the armed services. However, this year’s veterans, Joshua Draddy from Deridder and Darren Duplantis from Raceland, were in good enough heath to coordinate much of the hunt themselves.
“They had a good time. I was just an airboat driver and guide for the weekend. I let them do it all,” he said. Both Draddy and Duplantis bagged three alligators each, including an eight footer, over a two-day period.
Duplantis said the hunt was not just an enjoyable experience for him, but also educational.
“I’d never actually been in an airboat before, so that was a new experience for me that was pretty cool,” he said. “We did the hunt and then Kip took us to the shed where he does all his processing. He showed us how he skinned the alligators and deboned them, and allowed us to get in there and get our hands dirty.”
Duplantis served as an Army National Guard medic in Iraq where he was first deployed in 2004. At the time of his deployment, he was in nursing school and ready to embark on a career in the medical field. However, after his return from Iraq he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and felt he could no longer take the stress of working in a medical environment.
Due to his inability to return to the medical field, Duplantis opened Cajun Powder Coats in Raceland, a small business he has been successfully running for the past three years. Owning his own business allows him to work alone and at his own pace.
But Duplantis loved the thrill and camaraderie of the Wounded Warriors hunt because he said it was therapeutic.
“Weekends like this offer a kind of therapy for PTSD and other problems some of us are having,” he said. “You go out with other veterans and it is really therapeutic.”
It was also nice for Duplantis to be around other veterans in the program.
“That is really what makes it a good weekend. You get to touch base with other people who are wounded warriors that don’t get the contact with many people who are in the same situation. You kind of get the feeling that you are around a group of friends who have never really met before,” he said.