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Warrior's Weekend kicks off on Friday

May 18, 2011 at 12:18 a.m.

Samuel Bonorden, 13, salutes American flags at the Field of Honor on Wednesday evening. The Boy Scouts gathered to salute the flags as a gesture of respect. The flags were placed to honor and welcome veterans arriving for the coming Warrior's Weekend.

The flags are out and the fish should be afraid - the soldiers are coming.

More than 500 veteran soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq are coming to the Crossroads area for a few days of fishing and camaraderie during Warrior's Weekend.

Warrior's Weekend brings wounded soldiers from across the country to spend a weekend where they are acknowledged for their service and given the chance to go fishing and spend time with their fellow veterans.

Ron Kocian, president of Warrior's Weekend, came up with the idea as a way to honor wounded soldiers.

He had noticed smaller groups were taking veterans out fishing.

"I just thought, why not see if we can do this on a bigger scale," he said, holding the first Warrior's Weekend in 2007.

The event is free for the veterans, with everything from hotel accommodations to airline tickets covered by the organization.

No veteran is turned away if he or she asks to come, Kocian said.

"That's kind of our mantra. We don't say no to any soldier," Kocian said.

The weekend starts with a ceremony at 3 p.m. Friday at the flag-covered Field of Honor in Victoria.

Friday's ceremony promises to be a special one, Kocian said.

General Henry Vicello Jr. , a command pilot with more than 3,300 hours in a fighter aircraft and 235 combat missions in Southeast Asia is set to speak. The Texas A&M Ross Volunteers, the elite members of the university's Corps of Cadets, will also attend the ceremony.

Next, the soldiers and their caretakers and families will enjoy a fish fry and card games on Friday night before heading to Port O'Connor Saturday morning for a day of fishing.

Saturday night's fish fry is open to the public with tickets going for $10, Kocian said.

Most of the soldiers served in Afghanistan and Iraq. Many battle depression and thoughts of suicide upon returning, and there's a 90 percent divorce rate for these veterans, Kocian said.

"These guys have been through hell and they come home and they continue to go through hell," Kocian said.

The event is about healing, Warrior's Weekend board member Phylis Canion said.

"Some of these kids are just so beat up, and they've been through so much," Canion said. "It's a way to show them our appreciation."

This is the largest event they've had yet, Kocian said.

Kocian said he is hoping people will turn out to support the soldiers at the Field of Honor on Friday and as they head out to go fishing on Saturday morning.

"We'd like to show them that we haven't forgotten about them," Kocian said. "It's the least we can do. They've given up their lives, pretty much, the least we can do is give up a few hours."



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