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Lincoln 4th Grader Reunites With Wounded Warrior

Published: Sep. 29, 2017 at 4:25 PM EDT
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“House in the Woods” in Lee has been providing veterans and their families the hunting experience of a lifetime for a few years now.

Little did one Marine Corps Vet know he would take away more than game from his hunting trips.

Alyssa Thurlow shows us how one special 4th grader struck up an unexpected friendship with him in just a short week.

"I met him last year at the bear hunt and we became really good friends."

It's not every day a 4th grader gets to meet a wounded warrior, let alone strike up a friendship.

"They invited me last year, they participate with House in the Woods to kind of do this joint bear hunt, so they called me up and asked me, hey do you want to go up to Maine and join in on the bear hunt, and I did, and I came up here and met all these great people and everything worked out really well."

Meet Marine Corps Veteran, Sergeant Zachary Stinson.

Zach is just one of the dozens of vets who have come to House in the Woods to participate in the hunt of a lifetime.

The hunt wasn't easy, but it was an experience he will remember forever, all thanks to Kaelyn Cloukey, a fourth grader at Mattanawcook Junior High School in Lincoln.

Last year, the Cloukey family hosted Stinson and other veterans at their home, while projects at House in the Woods were being finished.

"We kind of didn't know what to expect and he was one of the people that came in and our Kaelyn went straight to him, stayed to his hip and didn't leave for a week."

"Last year when I finished harvesting my bear, I got to take some pictures with Kaelyn and now with the moose as well, so it was really special."

Little did Kaelyn know she would see him again a year later.

"I was happy and I actually cried a little."

"I hadn't seen her in so long, and then they told me before that she was coming, so I was excited to surprise her. She's a great girl and I feel like I really have a friend there."

Kaelyn comes to class everyday to learn, but there's some lessons in life that can't be taught.

"For someone so young to take the initiative and be so patriotic and understand what's going on, it's a great thing and that goes towards her parents as far as that as well."

"We do a lot with the military and different organizations, volunteering, and we always make sure that they are involved with us. Kids now-a-days, lots of them have heroes that are athletes or singers, but to have it be someone you can actually meet and spend time with, that's something unique that doesn't happen every day."

Zach has kids of his own back home in Pennsylvania. He says it's bittersweet leaving them while he's on the road, but now he feels the same way about leaving Maine...thanks to Kaelyn.

“I always keep an open mind. When God blesses you with opportunities, you jump at them, so who am I to turn something away? Especially, a great friendship.”