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A weekend for warriors

By JULIAN CAVAZOS
May 15, 2009 at 12:15 a.m.


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SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE

9 - 10 a.m.: Welcome the troops at Froggie's Boat Dock in Port O'Connor

11 a.m. - 5 p.m.: Port O'Connor Community Center activities: Fishing tanks, bouncers, slides, rock climbing, bow and arrow shooting, music by D.J. Ace

3 p.m. - 4 p.m.: Weigh-in of fish caught by heroes

5 p.m.: Heroes arrive at community center

5:30 p.m.: Grand reception dinner with heroes

6 p.m. - 7 p.m.: Presentations and soldiers talk

8 p.m.: Live band "Tailpipes"

Kent Solheim is determined to get back to active service for his country, but on Friday the Army major just enjoyed getting a little extra attention.

Solheim was among 50 wounded soldiers who were greeted by a large crowd at Faith Family Church for the opening of Warriors Weekend with the dedication of the Healing Field of Honor.

Solheim, who is stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., had his right leg amputated and is recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

"To the volunteers, and everybody that makes this happen, I don't think they fully comprehend what a wonderful event this is, what it means to the soldiers that come here," Solheim, 36, said. "Guys like me, who want to come back here, I think it's a testament to what kind of event that goes on here, and the people of Texas that make this happen. This is an extraordinary event."

In July 2007, while in Iraq, Solheim took part in an operation to capture a specific person. Then, a fire fight broke out and he was shot four times - twice in his left leg, once in his right leg, and once in his left shoulder.

Over the past two years, his right leg began to deteriorate, and had to be amputated in March. He has a prosthetic leg now, and keeps a positive attitude about it.

"Now, being an amputee, it's taken some getting to used to, but my lifestyle, my quality of life is better as a result of that surgery, as opposed to a leg that was damaged beyond repair and didn't function at all anymore," said Solheim, who has a wife and two children. "In a way, it's a positive thing. It allows me to do things with my kids that I couldn't do as a result of the gun shot."

Despite the amputation, he plans to re-deploy to Afghanistan or Iraq after healing at the medical center.

"My goal is to go back," he said. "You have to believe in what you do."

At Friday's event, hundreds of Crossroads residents of all ages waited in two lines to greet the wounded soldiers after their lunch.

In an open field next to Faith Family Church, 500 U.S. flags, each about eight feet tall, were placed in the ground, each sponsored by area residents for $40.

Every flag bore the name of a fallen soldier from the War on Terrorism.

Only 400 flags were anticipated.

"It says a lot about our community, in reaching out for our soldiers and their loved ones here," said Linda Janek, of Victoria, who sponsored a flag.

Dolores Oelfke left her home in Fort Worth early Friday morning just to attend the Healing Field after being so impressed last year.

"I couldn't believe what all you all do," said Oelfke, in tears. "The whole city, the whole area just ... it's like coming home. And you're all so sweet. I didn't have any sons, I had daughters, but I feel like all of these are my sons. I'm just still, 'wow, wow, wow.'"

The rest of Warriors Weekend continues Saturday in Port O'Connor, 3674 W. Adams St.

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