Athletics: Navy Vet comes home to a surprise after winning medals

To his surprise, Navy veteran Hank Ebert comes home to his friends and family greeting him back from the National Veterans Wheelchair Games.

A crowd of well wishers welcomes home Hank Ebert Wednesday, July 17, at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport after he competed in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Kentucky. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

After shooting 98 of 100 in the trapshooting event at the 2019 National Veterans Wheelchair Games in Louisville, Kentucky, Hank Ebert’s trophy surprised him.

Instead of a gold trophy, he won a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon Basil Hayden.

“Good bourbon,” he said.

Along with trapshooting, Ebert won competitions in archery, discus and shotput. He also placed third in the javelin. Finally, he shot a cap off a water bottle as part of an exhibition of the best trapshooters who were there.

He arrived at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport Wednesday, July 17, and was surprised to find his many fans and friends there to greet him.


“It was very cool,” he said. “I didn’t expect it. It was a surprise.”

Ebert, 72, has lived in the Brainerd lakes area since 1976 on North Long Lake. He loves fishing and hunting. He grew up in the Twin Cities, but as a kid he visited his uncle’s farm in Eagle Bend to learn how to shoot. He always had a bow and arrow in his hand, shooting rabbits, as a kid in Minneapolis.

Ebert served in the Navy in helicopter search and rescue from 1966-1970 and spent three years in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. After returning home in the summer of 1970, he was injured in a motorcycle accident that keeps him in a wheelchair to this day.

Ebert says it is hard not to get nervous when he competes in the trapshooting events. The smallest little thing can throw a shooter off.

“You just relax and go for it,” he said. “You know you can do it.”

Ebert loves the outdoors. He was a fishing guide in Nisswa when he first moved to the area. He started guiding fishing trips while attending St. Cloud State.

“If you want to be outdoors, Brainerd is the place to do it,” he said.

For Ebert, the most memorable part of the National Veterans Wheelchair Games was shooting the bottle cap off a water bottle. He had never heard of that being a challenge before. An official came over to him after arachey saying the top two shooters were going to attempt to shoot a cap off a water bottle without tipping the bottle over.


His first couple practice shots were too high in his estimation. When the exhibition started his opponent shot the water bottle down. When it came to be Ebert’s turn, he shot the water bottle cap off without damaging the bottle. Ebert felt an adrenaline rush go through him after proving he was the top shooter at the Wheelchair Games.

“Where’s that bourbon?” he said.

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