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Hunts for Heroes honors wounded veterans

By BY ADRIANA ACOSTA
July 31, 2010 at 2:31 a.m.

Adriana Acosta/AACOSTA@VICAD.COM

PALACIOS - Downtown Palacios came to a standstill Friday as residents welcomed more than 50 wounded soldiers to the area.

The fifth annual "Hunts for Heroes" brought wounded soldiers to a weekend in Palacios for fishing and boat riding.

The soldiers came from Carl R. Darnell Army Hospital at Fort Hood, Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

"This is a fantastic way for the soldiers to get away from the hospital atmosphere," said Billy Hodges, founder and president of the organization.

Hodges, a volunteer firefighter and Vietnam veteran, knows the importance of organizing trips for soldiers.

He was in the Army in the early '70s during the Vietnam era.

Although he was never in combat, he said he wore his uniform proudly for the Army and the Texas National Guard.

It is a way for people of his generation to make sure that the soldiers of today get treated the way they should be, with honor, he said.

Soldiers during the Vietnam era were ostracized, he said.

"It was a horrible time to be in the military," he said.

Hodges started "Hunts for Heroes" in 2006 and has made it a mission to dedicate himself to providing quality hunting and outdoor-related activities to men and women who have been wounded in the line of duty.

Staff Sgt. Joseph DeWolf, a 13-year Army veteran from Fort Hood, is a two-time Purple Heart recipient and is glad for organizations like this one.

Soldiers enjoy getting out and experiencing the support of the community, he said.

The 31-year-old suffered wounds and burns in Iraq in 2007 when a roadside bomb hit his tank.

"It is great to be surrounded by other soldiers as a group on this outing," said DeWolf, who was looking forward to fishing.

Danny Lee, committee member for the Matagorda County Cavalry, said he was glad to be able to thank soldiers.

"It is an honor to escort them for all that they have done for us," he said. "We know it is a huge sacrifice, and we want to make sure they know they are in the best hands possible."

The bus carrying the soldiers was escorted by the Matagorda County Cavalry and Perry Switch Riders.

Hodges said "Hunts for Heroes" is the only nonprofit in the United States that wants to be out of business.

"We look forward to the day when we will have no more wounded soldiers," he said.

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