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Looking Up and Ahead


Ayres has dreams he’s working on each day. According to Rocha, he has not let his injuries slow him down. In addition to focusing on his family, he’s been working on driving, going to the gym and returning to his favorite pastime: turkey hunting. “When I met him in the military, all he talked about was hunting and being a man,” Rocha says. “When I fi rst got to Afghanistan, I had barely fi red a weapon. He was there for me then, and I’m there for him now.” The pair have rigged up a system to safely anchor the rifl e and tie a string around the trigger and Ayres’ wrist, so all he has to do is pull his wrist back to take a shot. “Monkey over there has to carry me,” Ayres uses Rocha’s nickname with a laugh. “It’s slow going, but we make it.” “I’m just glad turkeys can’t smell,” Rocha joins in with a chuckle. “I’m not that strong of a guy, it was a hot day and I was sweating pretty strong.” Fun moments are treasured as life continues to throw Ayres a few curveballs. Right now he doesn’t have a proper shower suited for his condition and the width of his chair causes him to continually jam his fi ngers in doorways. However, his focus is not on himself, but rather, on helping other veterans connect and conquer life after active duty. “The fact that there are veterans helping veterans like the Veterans


Administration and the Wounded Warrior Project, we’re going to be okay.” As Ayres works to answer a new text from a fellow veteran, the words selfl ess, humble and strong come to mind. “Simple” is not one of them. To learn more about the WWP, visit www.woundedwarriorproject.org.


Ayres returns to turkey hunting with a memorable hunt from Oklahoma guide Vance Fielder (left). Fielder created a special blind and donated the hunt to Ayres, who continues to improve his newfound methods.


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