It is not uncommon for a sport to unite a family, but the Gaddie family and their sport are...hopefully, not for much longer. Lewis and Debbie Gaddie have raised seven kids with an appreciation of freedom, a love of God, and a passion for the shooting sports. Nicole, Victoria, Hannah, Jedidiah, Jacob, Gabriel and Isaac remember practically growing up on the shooting range – spending family vacations at Camp Perry, time learning with and from each other, and waiting with bated breath to turn of age to compete.
Firearms were a way of life in Kentucky. Growing up, Lewis fondly remembers practicing mile shots and organizing informal marksmanship competitions among the local kids. When he met his wife Debbie and moved to Michigan to raise a family, he started shooting in more formal highpower competitions. Debbie competed alongside him, though she admittedly enjoys shooting just for fun. It was Lewis who introduced her to shooting and introduced firearm safety to the kids at a young age. No one was forced into competition, but the Gaddies wanted to be sure each of their children respected and understood how to use firearms. “Even playing with water pistols or dart guns or anything, I still did not let them point them at people or shoot their siblings and stuff with it,” Lewis said. “I wanted them to learn gun safety with those toys.”
The passion for competition among the kids really started with Victoria (Vikki) Gaddie Dipple. “My interest in shooting started when we went to a county fair...They had a tiny little shooting range in one of their big barns and it was pellet guns.” At the age of 8, Vikki won the afternoon shooting competition, outshooting teenagers and young adults, sparking in her a competitive fire that remains unextinguished. Her parents took her to shoot air rifles with 4H every week after for the next few years. Once she was old enough, Vikki transitioned to shooting smallbore .22 at Capital City Rifle Club, and started officially competing at the age of 12 in service rifle. Family friend Bob Steketee became Vikki’s mentor, introducing her to long range the same year. Vikki joined the U.S. Young Eagles team and traveled with them to Canada in 2007, then to Australia in 2011.
“It’s really interesting to think back and see how fast and how quickly I progressed," says Vikki. "By the time I was 13 I was a master in long range…There’s no way that I could have done that without such a strong mentor in Bob Steketee, the junior program from Capital City and then of course my parents, taking me every week since I was 8 to the rifle range and nurturing that competitive excitement that I had to shoot.”
Siblings Hannah Gaddie Meginnes and Jedidiah (Jed) followed in Vikki’s footsteps, both excelling in service rifle, then joining the Young Eagles team with heavy mentorship by Bob Steketee. Their competition experience in long range introduced them to cultures from around the world, and bonded them not only as siblings and shooters, but as travel companions too. In 2011, while Vikki served as the Young Eagles Vice Captain, Hannah shot on the Goodwill team in Australia. Both earned team medals that year. While all three siblings never shot on the team at the same time, Hannah and Jed competed side by side on the team at the 2015 Worlds held at Camp Perry, Ohio.
While not everyone in the family pursued competition as heavily or entered long range, Camp Perry holds a special place in everyone’s heart. The family has attended the National Matches every year, with the kids too young to compete helping out around the RV site or watching from behind the line. As the oldest, Nikki Gaddie Kamerman had been to Camp Perry from the start. Though she enjoyed shooting for fun, she preferred using her time at Camp Perry to work on the range, volunteer, and to visit with everyone.
“Nikki, her biggest takeaway from rifle shooting was the togetherness of just the family doing something together,” her sister Vikki reported. Debbie always made sure that everyone was fed and well taken care of, venturing out to the range to watch during the days. “It was not just about the shooting. It was molding and shaping our family together as we did something that we all enjoyed.”
Jed’s favorite memories are of "the G-Force team," and mentoring his youngest brother Isaac. “One of the years…we had our entire team made up of Gaddies. My uncles came up from Kentucky, my cousins, and we made up what we called the G-Force.”
In most recent times, the Gaddie boys have consistently made up half of Michigan’s junior service rifle team, led by Lewis Gaddie. Jacob Gaddie, second oldest, greatly values the time spent shooting with his siblings and what the sport has taught him. “It builds character different than a normal sport like basketball or football would do.” While emotions and anger can fuel great plays in more physical sports like football, they have a disastrous effect in shooting. “If you get angry, it raises your heart beat, you get adrenaline pumping and then you can’t hold your gun still,” says Jacob. Patience and self-control are lessons that extend well beyond shooting.
Gabriel remembers some of his first lessons and plans to introduce his kids to the sport someday in the same way his dad did. “My dad had always taught us that when it comes to anything in life but especially in competing, you’re not trying to beat someone, you’re just trying to be better than you were before.”
As the youngest, Isaac looks up to his older siblings and though he admits he isn’t the best marksman in the family, truly enjoys the time on the range. The social aspect is key for him, with close friends on the junior team and an opportunity for all of his family to congregate in the evenings – something that can be difficult to arrange with so many people running in so many different directions.
Nowadays, everyone is busier and in different stages of their lives. Nikki and Vikki are both raising children of their own. Hannah is married and will soon deploy a second time in the Air Force. Jed shoots for the All Guard Team and will spend the next year overseas with the U.S. Army National Guard. Jacob is finishing college and was married this month. Gabriel and Isaac will still compete on the Michigan junior team. Regardless, each member of the family expressed a desire to continue shooting and to introduce it to their kids, whether they have already or plan to. The Gaddie family shows just how a sport can unite a family, allowing kids to learn from one another, to compete side by side at different ages, and to experience the world.