The Field of Honor reminds veterans they are not forgotten as Warrior's Weekend starts up
May 20, 2011 at 12:20 a.m.
8:45 a.m.: soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center pass through Cuero
8:15 a.m.: soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center pass through Victoria
9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.: arrive at Froggies Bait Dock, 2649 Stella St., Port O'Connor
10 a.m.: big tent opens in Port O'Connor
2 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.: soldiers return with their catch
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.: celebration and fish fry at the Big Tent in Port O'Connor
11 a.m.: soldiers depart
Cheers exploded from the crowd as the wounded veterans walked past them into the sanctuary of Faith Family Church.
"Thank you! Thank you for your service," a man called from the crowd.
The fifth annual Warrior's Weekend, a weekend of fishing for wounded veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, kicked off with the Field of Honor ceremony at Faith Family Church on Friday afternoon.
Pulling into the parking lot, the veterans saw more than 2,100 flags, billowing in the Field of Honor next to the church.
Juan Carrasco, a soldier from Fort Drum, was almost speechless after seeing the way people reacted to them.
"Words can't describe what I'm feeling," he said.
Ron Kocian, the president of Warrior's Weekend, said they start off the weekend with the Field of Honor ceremony to show the veterans they are remembered and honored for their service.
"They think that people have forgotten what they did, what they gave up for us. We have to keep reminding them that they are not forgotten. Here in South Texas we have not forgotten," Kocian said.
The sanctuary of Faith Family Church filled with flashing lights while the steady drive of Queen's "We Will Rock You" reverberated in the walls as the veterans marched in.
"This is crazy," a veteran said, grinning and turning his head to take in the cheering audience that sprang to its feet as he and the others walked down the aisle to take their seats for the ceremony.
Gen. Henry Viccellio Jr., a Victoria native and four-star general who flew 235 combat missions in Southeast Asia, gave the address. Viccellio encouraged the audience and the veterans to value and strive for morality and integrity, becasue these virtues are what make a good country.
"The surest way for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing," Viccellio said, quoting famed 18th century British politician Edmund Burke.
The audience gave him a standing ovation, led by the veterans.
Earlier, police had escorted the Warrior's Weekend buses from Houston on Friday morning. More than 300 motorcyclists joined the group in Hillje creating a convoy a mile-and-a-half long.
Crowds gathered all along the parade route, cheering and waving to the buses.
Edna resident Gilford Roberson and his wife JoAnn waited almost two hours to see the veterans.
"This is such a great thing they do for them," Roberson said. "It wasn't like this when we were in Vietnam, when I was in the service," he said.
Roberson waived his flag vigorously back and forth, smiling at the buses full of veterans as the parade moved through Ganado.
The veterans, wearing the white shirts with the Warrior's Weekend logo embroidered on the left side, walked a path between crowds to enter the church.
Victoria resident Connie Brown wiped away tears even as she cheered for the soldiers.
"I'm just so glad we're doing something like this for them, letting them know that people really do care and really do appreciate the things they've done," Brown said.
After the ceremony, the veterans walked out to see the Field of Honor before boarding a bus bound for Port O'Connor.
Matt Lewellen looked at the field for a long time.
"I've never experienced anything like this before. It feels awesome. It's nice to know that there are people out there that remember."