Woodmore High School sophomore Ryan Wicker is pretty handy with a rifle.
Wicker, 15, is an instructor-in-training with The Appleseed Project, a federally-licensed, all-volunteer grassroots organization. The Appleseed Project's administrative functions, such as weekend "Shoots," are under the direction of the Revolutionary War Veterans Association (RWVA), a 501c3 organization whose mission is to preserve and pass on traditional rifle marksmanship skills to Americans.
The RWVA helps preserve those marksmanship skills by conducting Appleseed Shoots - weekend rifle marksmanship clinics - with American heritage presentations interspersed throughout the event.
Appleseed Shoots are held at various sites around Ohio, including Gibsonburg, Miamisburg, Athens, Viena, West Jefferson, New Philadelphia, Lancaster, Salem, and Lima. This year's Gibsonburg events are April 24-25, May 29-30, July 24-25, Aug. 28-29 and Sept. 25.
During each event, participants are taught the role that riflemen and marksmanship played in American history. Appleseed Shoot participants learn what occurred on April 19, 1775 - the Revolutionary War battles at Lexington and Concord, Mass. - and "the shot heard round the world."
The battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the Revolutionary War and were fought in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy (present-day Arlington), and Cambridge, near Boston.
The battles marked the outbreak of armed conflict between Great Britain and its 13 colonies in North America.
"That whole story and the events leading to that day and how it shaped the country is what we talk about at these Appleseed events," said Gregg Liming, promotions coordinator for Appleseed Project in Ohio. "When we talk about the founding of the country, we use that as a backdrop of how the country began and the role that marksmanship played in essentially turning that battle (Lexington and Concord) around."
That's where Ryan Wicker comes in. The Woodmore student became a rifle instructor-in-training last September, and he's loving every minute of it.
The Appleseed Shoots held in Gibsonburg take place at the Sandusky County Sportsman's Club.
"I've been with Appleseed going on a year and a half," Wicker said. "I teach how to shoot any type of rifle. We prefer ones that have magazines, or clips. We shoot an AQT, an old military type of qualification. All of our instruction is at 25 meters (82 feet). I've taught a little bit about history, about the Colonies during Revolutionary times.
"Our main goal is to teach safety, for one. If they don't know how to shoot a rifle, at least they know how to make it safe. We have week-long boot camps."
Wicker said being involved with the Appleseed Project has brought out his true character.
"I used to be a stubborn punk," he said. "It brought out the true person; it taught me discipline. Since I've become an instructor, I've learned how to read what people are thinking. It's kind of weird how people catch on to that. It showed me I can go out and live outside for a week or so, all by myself, and not need somebody's help. It showed me there is more than one part of life.
"It makes me think about what we can do to encourage people, when they actually get out there, about who they are and what they're about."
The Appleseed marksmanship course is designed for beginner and experienced shooters who want to learn how to shoot their rifle more accurately.
The historical presentations of the Appleseed weekend take participants back to the time that the American Rifleman heritage began - April 19, 1775. Appleseed instructors share the life stories of those that were present that day in American history.
Ryan Wicker's mother, Lisa, is a big supporter of the Appleseed Project. She said she's noticed how the Shoots have helped her son grow into a young man.
"It has helped his self-esteem, and I like the unity of the program," she said. "It is familiy-oriented and kid-friendly, and it takes you back to the basics, the way things used to be. It's good for the kids and it's good for adults.
"Ryan went to a week-long rifleman boot camp last October in Missouri and he did wonderful. He has improved his marksmanship through the Appleseed program and he has also learned the history part of it. I like that, because it helps him with his schooling. It helps him know that your education is also important. You need to know your history and where you come from."
Ryan Wicker is one of many Appleseed Shoot instructors in Ohio. Liming said he is pleased with what he has seen from Wicker so far.
"He certainly has the passion behind wanting to not only excel at marksmanship but to share that with his peers," Liming said. "His ability to do that often reaches other child shooters in ways that adults may struggle with."
Liming stressed that the weekend Appleseed events are strictly presented in order to instill a sense of understanding about U.S. history and the role marksmanship played in that history.
"The act of becoming a marksman really helps you better as a citizen," Liming said. "There is an increased likelihood of you becoming more of a proactive citizen, like being more proactive in statewide goverment, stuff that students have not been taught or is no longer taught in schools. It's more about making sure we wake up citizens. We do that through the marksmanship program."
For more information on the Appleseed Project, visit www.appleseedinfo.org. For specific information in Ohio, you can get a monthly newsletter electronically at news.appleseedohio.org.