Getting a first taste of paint

Sunday, Sept. 12, I found myself in a mix of anxiety and excitement. I was decked out in camouflage coveralls, a facemask, and a gun—also known as a paintball marker.

I was prepared to participate in the annual weekend (Saturday-Sunday) “re-enactment” game of the Battle of Bastogne, an actual World War II conflict between Germans and Americans. This recreational event, organized by Pat Casey’s Rockford Paintball Games and Supplies, has much to offer.

As this was my first introduction to the sport of paintball, I was curious why others played. Bret Smith, a seasoned player, armed with an ear radio to enhance communication, said: “It’s a fun, healthy sport. It’s good exercise. And it’s more challenging than hunting an animal. They don’t shoot back.”

Another echo of this sentiment comes from Jeremy Miller, who has played the game for about 10 years. “ I like to hunt, but I don’t like to kill things,” he said.

I understood their responses as soon as I entered the 22-acre field full of hills, fields, man-built castles and barriers. I slowly made my way up the hill just in front of my team’s (Germans) entry point. I left my team trekking up behind me as I noticed a shape beneath a pine tree. Not wanting to alarm the intruder, I went up and around him, shooting him as he attempted an escape.

I cannot adequately describe the feelings running through me at that moment. Adrenaline had taken over, and the thrill that came with that first mark on an opponent awakened my primal forces. It was an awesome feeling knowing I had succeeded in the hunt, and had saved my team from being ambushed.

As always, though, there are two sides to the coin. I was also shot…numerous times. Since the pain factor is what most people are most concerned with, let me assure you, it’s not that bad. I would compare it to hitting your head on a cabinet. There’s that first initial shock, but then you’re more angry than hurt.

This sport is not just an alternative to hunting animals; it brings a lot of people together. As I played, I learned I was surrounded by teachers, businessmen, carpenters, computer technicians…and the list goes on. People who would never talk outside the game find themselves covering these same people on the field.

Family closeness is also another benefit. Fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, husbands and wives, all were seen together on the field. It was great to see a son providing backup to his father as they attempted to storm a hill.

Al Lay, Rock Valley College professor, said, “ The thrill and challenge of this sport, not to mention the physical agility and mental alertness required, are second to the family values and love shown in this game.”

I could not agree more. One more thing I’m sure everyone who has played the game would also agree with: the taste of paintballs is unpleasant.

More info: Rockford Paintball Games and Supplies, 7817 N. 2nd St. Suite C, Machesney Park, IL 61115, (815) 282-2992,

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