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'It honestly made me proud to be living in this country:' Celebrities partner with Special Forces soldiers for shooting

A group of celebrities, Andrew East, left to right, Randy Couture, Shawn Johnson, Jeffrey Henderson, Shawn Booth and Chuck Wicks, pose for a picture before watching Special Forces soldiers put on a demonstration on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2020, on Fort Bragg. The celebrities are visiting Fort Bragg to take part in the Special Forces Tactical Challenge.

ANDREW CRAFT, THE FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER/TNS

By RACHAEL RILEY | The Fayetteville Observer | Published: December 11, 2020

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — Gunshots rang out across Fort Bragg gun ranges Wednesday, but it wasn't just soldiers pulling the trigger.

The soldiers were joined by Olympic medalist Shawn Johnson and her NFL husband Andrew East, country music singers Chuck Wicks and Lee Brice, Ultimate Fighting Championship heavyweight champion Randy Couture, Mixed Martial Arts fighter Dan Henderson and former "Bachelorette" finalist and trainer Shawn Booth.

Each celebrity teamed up with two Green Berets from groups across the U.S. Army Special Forces Command for the inaugural Special Forces Charitable Trust Tactical Challenge that will be held Thursday.

The Special Forces Charitable Trust is a nonprofit that raises money for the Green Berets and their families with events like this week's challenge, said Jodi Burns, director of the organization.

Funds are used for family and community support with either family retreats or providing financial support to those families not provided by the federal government, education support to provide spouse and children scholarships and veteran and heritage support that includes one-time need-based grants for veterans and assisting with memorial and monument funding.

"We really do have a lot of patriotic people that want to help families," Burns said. "They don't know how they can help, and so we like to think of ourselves as their voice, because ... the families won't ask for the help because they are strong."

Wicks worked with Burns to look for "patriots" and other celebrities who "love their country," to participate in the challenge, he said.

"All these guys want to give back, and all are very competitive," he said.

The seven celebrities will be paired with two Green Berets for the challenge.

They had the opportunity to meet their Green Beret teammates Wednesday and practice and familiarize themselves with the ranges and handguns and sniper rifles they'll use for the competition.

One of the soldiers is part of the 20th Special Forces Group and will be part of the team with Booth.

"It's great that he has an interest, and all these celebrities volunteered to come out and be part of it," said the soldier, who cannot be named because of the nature of his job. "We enjoy teaching them, and they're teaching us a little bit about what they do in their walk of life."

Johnson said she started helping with Special Forces retreats about 12 years ago

"To work with their kids and the wives and kind of support everything that goes into it emotionally, physically and mentally with the military is really cool," she said.

Couture himself is no stranger to the Army, previously serving as a sergeant with the 101st Airborne Division.

After separating from the military, he's participated in UFC Fight for the Troops events held at Fort Bragg in the past, teaching soldiers combatives.

"I was fortunate enough to get called and asked if I'd be interested in coming out and doing a tactical challenge with the guys for the Charitable Trust," he said. "So any time I get a chance to give back, especially to our men and women who wear uniform, I'm there."

Brice said Wicks asked him if he wanted to learn and shoot some tactical stuff and shoot guns and hang out with a bunch of cool people."

"And I said, 'Well, duh,'" Brice said. "We do a lot of stuff with the military, doing shows and stuff, but we don't get to do a lot of stuff like this."

Brice said he's grown up shooting his whole life, but learning from professional soldiers like the Green Berets is at "another level."

"It's always a good time to be able to come out and have fun, but it's always about giving back to these folks and their families, and there's just so many sacrifices that go on on a daily basis, not just the ultimate sacrifice, and I talk about it all the time," he said. "So anything we can do to support, we try to do it."

Wicks said seeing the soldiers run through a close quarter battle demonstration Wednesday put things into perspective.

"To see these guys go in there bust open doors, blow them down and clear a room with such efficiency and watching that happen, it honestly made me proud to be living in this country and having them on our side," he said.

And Wicks and Burns said the challenge not only is about raising money to support Special Forces and families, but it's also about creating awareness in hopes that others will want to be part of their team and join the Army and Special Forces.

"They're incredible and super humble," Burns said. "They are quiet professionals and don't talk about themselves at all."

The Outdoor Channel will air Thursday's competition during four different segments at later dates and include an anchor show for Veterans Day next year.

"We're here to just build awareness and show the world what it is our military does and to bring awareness to their families and help support them in any way we can," Johnson said.

Those wanting to support can visit the Charitable Trust's website and click on one of the celebrities' names to make a donation.

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