Former Army Shooter Enters U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame
The “big change” came in January 1964, when the unit acquired new Anschutz rifles, Wigger said. “It seemed like every time I practiced I shot better.” :D
– Retired Army Lt. Col. Lones W. Wigger Jr., 70, a three-time Olympic military marksman himself, starts a new job with the beginning of the 2008 Olympics as narrator for MSNBC’s Web video coverage of marksmanship competitions in the Summer Games.
Wigger, whose career spanned 25 years, competed at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico and the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. He won a combined two gold medals and one silver medal. Six Army marksmen are representing the United States in this summer's competitions in Beijing.
“It was great to make the Olympic team,” Wigger recalled in recent telephone interview. “You don’t think you’ll ever be good enough, and then you’re able to go the Olympics and actually win, and that’s the epitome of everything you ever thought about or dreamed about. The Army gave me that opportunity. I would never have realized anywhere near what I accomplished without that.”
Wigger grew up on a farm in Montana where, at age 10, his father taught him to shoot. “We had a local smallbore rifle league, a target shooting league, and that’s how I learned, from the men on the team and the other shooters in the league,” he said. “I set a goal for myself way back then that I wanted to go as far as I could.”
After graduating from college, he joined the Army because the service “was the only one that provided the opportunity to train and be supported to the level you needed to be to able to compete at the world level.”
Eight months after he graduated from college, Wigger went to officer training and was assigned to the Army Marksmanship Unit, at Fort Benning, Ga.
Still, after being in the Army for two years, the Olympic dream continued to elude Wigger. “I had goals and dreams to someday get good enough that I could make the Olympic team, but I was in the Army for two years and never progressed that far.”
Although he participated in the Pan Am Games in 1963 and won a silver medal in the smallbore rifle prone match, Wigger said, “I thought that was the only medal I’d ever win.”
Discouraged, he left the Army and headed back to Montana, anticipating working toward a master’s degree and a different career. He continued shooting, however, and victories at the National Rifle and Pistol Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio, rejuvenated him.
When he arrived home from the championships, a letter from the Army awaited him. “They needed people then, and they said that if I signed on the dotted line, because I’d only been gone six months, I could come back in the Army,” Wigger recalled. “So I called and asked, ‘Where would you send me?’ and they said, ‘Where to you want to go?’” The answer: Fort Benning and back to the marksmanship unit.
“I went back in one day after President Kennedy was assassinated,” Wigger said. “We drove through Dallas and by the bookstore and right by where he was killed. And I went back to the unit and started training again.”