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Warrior's Weekend ready to bring 800 soldiers, families for its eighth year

By JR Ortega
May 14, 2014 at 12:14 a.m.
Updated May 15, 2014 at 12:15 a.m.

Faith Academy student Ethan Aleman walks through the sea of flags set up in the Field of Honor near the Port O'Connor Community Center. Warrior's Weekend kicks off Friday, and the display of 6,805 flags represent the number of military personnel who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.

IF YOU GO

• WHAT: Warrior's Weekend arrival

• WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Friday at Faith Family Church; buses leave at 4:30 p.m., traveling down Navarro Street to state Highway 185 to Port O'Connor.

• WHERE: Field of Honor, 2002 E. Mockingbird Lane

• INFO: For other Warrior's Weekend events, visit warriorsweekend.org.

Every year, the stress of pulling off Warrior's Weekend without a hitch takes its toll, but all Ron Kocian needs is one phone call to turn that all around.

On Wednesday, a day before the first wave of more than 800 soldiers and their families make their way to the Crossroads, Kocian took a phone call from a soldier calling with two words: "Thank you."

"You may get flustered and stressed out, but then you hear that," said Kocian, founder and president of the annual fishing trip for wounded veterans. "You get pumped up, and it excites you beyond what you could ever dream of."

Warrior's Weekend kicks off Friday as buses from Houston, San Antonio and other cities across the state and nation descend on Victoria, meeting at the Field of Honor outside Faith Family Church.

Now in its eighth year, the fishing trip gains more families each year, growing by about 100 people from last year.

The event has several components, from the Field of the Honor to the fishing trip to a field of 6,800 flags in Port O'Connor, each representing the number of men and women killed in the global war on terror.

"It's an amazing sight," Kocian said.

Aside from the charter buses coming in from other areas in the state, about 450 wounded veterans are flying into George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston.

From there, the buses carrying those veterans will head south on U.S. Highway 59 on Friday, stopping at Prasek's Hillje Smokehouse, where about 300 motorcyclists will cheer on the soldiers.

The buses also travel through Ganado and Edna, where the streets will be lined with community supporters, Kocian said.

Another set of buses will come from Fort Hood through Luling, Gonzales and Cuero.

The buses from both trips are expected to arrive at the Field of Honor by 2:30 p.m. Kocian plans to get the buses back on the road by 4:30 p.m.

Laura Wier, who has volunteered for about three years for Warrior's Weekend and the Field of Honor, said the experience is unforgettable.

Wier, along with other volunteers, will greet the waves of soldiers as they land at the airport Thursday and Friday, she said.

"Whoever volunteers continues doing it," she said. "We don't do it for us; we do it for them. It is uplifting and so heartwarming."

Though the fishing in Port O'Connor is the highlight of the weekend, it's more about the community support the wounded soldiers see than anything else, she said.

"It's rewarding to see their faces when they come in and when they leave," she said. "It's about the camaraderie and how much we care about our troops."

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