With only two weeks remaining before starting high school, most teenagers would be swimming or hiking with friends on the best weather day you could possibly imagine south of the Mason-Dixon line. Instead, Lee Wills, of Midland, Va., joined his mom, Karla, and older brother, Jesse, to share Lee's story with NRA Family InSights.
Having spoken to Lee's coach, Lucito Lara, in Baltimore, Md., and viewed a video (filmed when Lee was 12 years old, which includes pro shooters Travis Tomasie and Trevor Baucom), we already knew Lee had been born with 14 fingers, all of which were fused together. Lee has had 13 complicated corrective surgeries, starting when he was only four months old. Mr. Lara said, "...now, a lot of people don't notice that Lee is different-or a youth-they see him as a competitor. When you step to the line, you're a competitor."
Due to his ever-increasing height and the fact that he presents himself with competence and confidence when competing, Lee fits right in. However, the thumb on his left hand can't move-which causes a problem for him when speed loading a shotgun. Come December, Lee is scheduled for yet another surgery by an exceptional orthopedic surgeon, Col. Bachelor at Ft. Belvoir, and we are all rooting for Lee that this surgery is successful. Lee is proud of his accomplishments in USPSA and IDPA and he has attained the level of expertise required to be a Master Class shooter, an R.O. and C.R.O. (Range Officer and Certified Range Officer). His determination alone makes him a force to be reckoned with. A quiet and focused young man, Lee was shooting a .22 rifle at age four and hunting shortly after that. He's also good at archery.
Despite his undeniable achievements, his mom reveals that Lee has been bullied at school. Shockingly, Lee has even been taunted by adult competitors. You see, Lee supports DPMS Team Member Deb Cheek'scharity, The Pink Gun Project. Cheek, whom Lee calls "my second mother," (pictured above with Lee) provided the Versa Max DPMS he needed in order to compete in 3-gun competition. The gun in question, a .223 AR, sports a hot pink upper and lower receiver in support of breast-cancer research. This color scheme prompted some adult competitors to make fun of him. How did this determined young competitor react? Explains Lee,"I outshot them at the 300-yard line on an 8-inch steel plate. I won a Division, in Sectionals, at age 14. That is the best revenge."
Lee attends charity matches [Honored American Veterans Afield (HAVA) and The Prayer Child Foundation] and has seen returning warriors in the hospital, which helps him take nothing for granted. People he meets at events often offer suggestions and assistance. He even got a great piece of advice from professional shooter/gun guru Jerry Miculek: "Mr. Jerry is one of the nicest people, and so is Ms. Kay, his wife. He told me that when you are on deck [next in line to shoot] you should walk through the course-of-fire one more time to secure your plan...there's a lot to remember in 3-gun."
When asked what advice he'd give someone who hasn't tried shooting yet, his response is enthusiastic: "Just try it! It's worth it. You can't say it's awful until you try it. What an adrenaline rush-there's nothing like it. Shooting is for the whole family."
Lee concluded the visit by telling us, "I just want to say ‘thank you' to all the people [who] have helped me, inspired me despite my own self to do the best I could, then do it better and faster; my mom for always taking me [shooting] even when she's tired-she gives up a lot so I can do what I love and I appreciate her; Mr. Lucito Lara for sticking with me every step of the way and making me the shooter I am today. And thanks to my dad for always making sure my ammo and my groups are the best they can be, and my brother for always challenging me to beat him. I am very blessed in my life. It's been so hard sometimes, when I was younger I used to ask, ‘Why did God make me this way?' and Mom always said the same thing: ‘God made you this way for reasons we don't know yet, but one day we will.' I believe her. If one kid gets off the couch, if one kid has a disability and tries and succeeds, or if one wounded soldier fires a round and smiles, then I know what God's purpose is for me, and it was worth it."
Whether continuing to "get good grades, become a Range Master, go to college, or someday work in the firearms industry," whatever Lee puts his mind to, we are sure he will accomplish it. And his family, who supports him every step of the way, and the friends he has made while on his incredible journey, will be there cheering.
Lead photo by Yamil Sued