Heroes are coming to Warrior's Weekend VIII
Plans are well under way to bring more than 800 wounded American heroes from all branches of service to Victoria, Port Lavaca, Seadrift and Port O'Connor on May 16-18. Last year, we brought in more than 700, and the response has been overwhelming as the word continues to spread about the heartfelt patriotism of South Texans in our area.
Activities have already begun as our volunteers, under the guidance of retired Col. Mike Petrash, drove in more than 2,100 pieces of rebar into the hard-crust soil next to Faith Family Church for the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor. Some of our most ardent workers were wounded heroes themselves. Volunteers from Caterpillar, CrossFit, Stallion Oilfield Services, the Army Reserve and others also did a great job. On May 3, beginning at 9 a.m., more than 2,500 flags will be posted, one by one, with the name of a veteran, living or deceased, on each flag. Each name will be called out as the flag is posted, honoring the veterans of the sponsor's choice. If you haven't seen the field, especially when lighted at night through the efforts of David Pribyl and friends, it is truly a beautiful sight. Just imagine the history the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor represents.
As you can well imagine, bringing in more than 800 wounded heroes plus family members is a massive as well as an expensive undertaking. The Warrior's Weekend Executive Board, made up of myself, Kelly Parks, Billy Bowers, Russell Hofer, Bruce Poncik and Darryl Lesak, must work year round, along with our great volunteers, to ensure that we have the funds to allow for such an undertaking. Our sponsor/donors are great and have come to understand, along with ourselves, just what Warrior's Weekend means to these heroes. Vice-President Billy Bowers received the following email from a hero recently:
"My name is Walt Townsend. I'm a Marine wounded warrior with two Purple Hearts. I was a sniper in 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marines and a Mobile Assault Section Leader in Anti-Terrorism BN where I was wounded twice in Iraq, North of Baghdad - once foot mobile and once mobile, which led to the two men in my vehicle's deaths. I found myself at Wounded Warrior BN East at Camp Lejeune trying to recover. I attended the events last year at Port O'Connor through the BN (battalion). That weekend touched me so much, I can't even begin to explain the impact on my life. I was going through a rough time and didn't think anyone cared. After leaving Port O'Connor, I realized that the liberal media and tree-hugging air breathers were not the only ones out there. The people from South Texas were the most inspirational, inspiring and patriotic individuals I've ever come in contact with. I got medically retired from wounds sustained in combat on March 30; however, I wanted to know if there was room for one more. I would love to attend Warrior's Weekend 2014.
"Let me know what I have to do. I'm still in the NC - Camp Lejeune area and would love to attend.
"Thanks for all that y'all do.
"True Impact Semper Fi
"P.S. I'm from Amarillo, TX, born and raised."
One criticism of Warrior's Weekend that makes the rounds is that we are too big, we bring in too many wounded, that we care too much about the numbers. Guilty. We wish we could bring them all here to absorb the respect, admiration and love provided by South Texas. We do what we can and will continue until they feel they don't need us anymore. When we received the email from Walt Townsend, we already had more than 750 heroes registered. Who among you is going to turn that hero down? Not us.
Now, that being said, we need more boat captains to sign up to take these heroes fishing. You don't need to be a licensed guide - very few of our boat captains are. You just have to have the desire to want to have a great day on the water taking a hero and maybe his family fishing. There are many of you out there that would like to give back to those who have put their life on the line so that we may enjoy the lives we have. Here is your chance. Go to our website, warriorsweekend.org, and click on the Boat Captains icon. We really need you, and you will not regret it, we promise. We hope to see you at the Warrior's Weekend Field of Honor and in Port O'Connor at Warrior's Weekend VIII.
Ron Kocian is president of the Warrior's Weekend organization in Victoria.