NORTH ANSON — For a few minutes Sunday, Tim Valliere, 25, of Portland, felt normal.

The Deering High School graduate, who served his country with the 82nd Airborne Division in Afghanistan and Iraq, sustained a traumatic brain injury, is deaf in his right ear, has torn muscles in his lower back and has post-traumatic stress disorder.

But Sunday, at the Warrior Legacy Foundation’s Wounded Heroes Machine Gun Shoot, Valliere was in his prime.

“It’s an opportunity to feel like I’m back in the military,” said Valliere, who played lacrosse for the Rams.

“A lot of us who are injured strive for a sense of normalcy. This puts me back to where I was when I was healthy … at least for a few minutes.”

Lt. Col. Bob Crowley organized the shooting event for Valliere and 20-plus other veterans at Williams Machine Gun Range, built by veteran Andy Williams after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

The veterans were presented swag bags that included gift cards from Cabela’s and musical gifts from rocker Ted Nugent and country star Toby Keith.

Nugent, who just embarked on a tour, sent a text to be read prior to the shoot.

He wrote, “I bow to you all” and “I stand humble and honored in your warrior shadow.”

Chaplain Col. Valmore Vigue said he felt close to God during the special day being around those who believe in miracles.

Williams, who said “because of the cause, I help veterans whenever I can,” sent the veterans to the range with the line, “Now let’s get some guns dirty. This is about making you smile.”

Brig. Gen. Donald McCormack shook hands with all veterans who entered the range.

The wounded participants sported red and white shirts with Warrior Legacy Foundation emblems.

Attorney General Bill Schneider, who graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point and is a retired U.S. Army officer, organized the ammunition between volleys and Gov. Paul LePage arrived for a visit as the first of several volleys wrapped up.

Pam Payeur said her inspiration for getting the Wounded Heroes Program off the ground in Maine was her son, Mike of Biddeford.

In 2007, Cpl. Mike Payeur sustained a head injury in Iraq when an improvised explosive device flipped his tank on its side.

Pam Payeur said in the period that followed she negotiated an endless stream of paperwork and other issues.

“I knew he was not the only one going through this and I had to take care of the others just as well as I would take care of my boy.”

She said the volunteer, nonprofit Wounded Heroes Program is like “MacGyver” when it comes to money; the group ensures veterans and their families have items ranging from heating oil to Christmas trees “with some magic underneath.”

Pam Payeur encouraged veterans, especially those without visible wounds, to reach out, “swallow your pride” and accept help. She said the organization will “make sure they all get what they need, someway, somehow.”

For Jon Kessler, a 101st Airborne Ranger from Biddeford who served in the first Operation Desert Storm, the shooting event was a “dream come true.”

He brought his son, Cameron, 20, a paratrooper about to be deployed to Afghanistan.

Jon Kessler said he is working to make sure his future includes competing as a member of the U.S. Paralympic Ski Team at the 2014 games.

The Kesslers and other veterans could choose to shoot a variety of weapons on the range, including an MG 42 developed in Nazi Germany that fires 1,200 rounds per minute.

Attendees were treated to a pig roast, moose and venison.

The Mobile Vet Center was on scene for consultations and to make sure veterans were aware of all the benefits they had earned and a film crew gathered footage to be aired at a later date on Spike TV.

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.