Warrior's Weekend kicks off with flag dedication ceremony at Faith Family Church

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

May 20, 2010 at 12:20 a.m.

When five charter buses carrying roughly 170 wounded soldiers drive right through the middle of Victoria Friday, it's bound to stop traffic.

Friday marks the beginning of the Warrior's Weekend with a flag dedication ceremony at Faith Family Church.

It continues Saturday with a fishing trip and other activities in Port O'Connor.

The buses will first drive through Ganado, head south on U.S. Highway 59, then down Edna's Main Street and then into Victoria, said Ron Kocian, Warrior's Weekend president.

"It's extremely important to show these guys and girls all the love and support," Kocian said in a phone interview on Thursday.

Aside from community support they will see along the drive, the soldiers and their families will be greeted at their first stop by 600 sponsored flags at the Field of Honor next to the church, Kocian said.

The flags honor both living and deceased soldiers and veterans, said Col. Michael Petrash, who is heading the Field of Honor.

Petrash expects close to 600 people to attend the dedication ceremony.

"I get choked up every time I talk about it," he said. "I can't wait to see these soldiers and their families."

A representative from Congressman Ron Paul's office, Commissioner Gary Burns and Operation Iraqi Freedom wounded soldier Shilo Harris of San Antonio, will speak at the dedication.

Harris will speak how he was wounded and his first experience at Warrior's Weekend.

On Thursday, Harris was still thinking about the right words to say to those who, like him, have been affected by war.

"I want to encourage them," said Harris from his home just outside of San Antonio. "I want to reassure them that they may never see the end of their medical treatment, but their quality of life will get better."

Harris was injured in February 2007 by a roadside bomb, he said.

His 2008 experience at Warrior's Weekend was something he will never forget and is excited to attend in years to come, he said.

"I was pretty banged up," he said about his condition when he attended. "It really helped me just talking."

Now, two years later, Harris is speaking to some soldiers who are attending the event for the first time, like he did.

Immediately following the flag ceremony, the five buses will head down state Highway 185 and toward Port O'Connor.

The soldiers will lodge overnight in Port O'Connor and will have breakfast at the community center with six other bus loads of about 150 wounded soldiers from Brooke Army Medical Center on Saturday morning.

Once breakfast is done, the 11 charter buses will drive toward Froggie's Bait Dock, where they will be greeted, one final time, with community and family members, as well as 200 boats for their day fishing trip.

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

The soldiers will spend the day fishing. For those who do not want to fish, there will be a live fish tank, bingo, archery, identification tag making, rock climbing, beach fun and other games, Kocian added.

Fish caught will be weighed in close to 4 p.m. and awards will be given.

Following the weigh-in, there will be a skydive by former military paratroopers and a barbecue sponsored by Uncle Mutt's in Victoria.

"This has grown to be so much more than just a little fishing expedition. It's grown into a healing element," Kocian said. "That's why they are willing to travel six to nine hours and be loved on for a couple of evenings ... we certainly can make the effort to see that it continues."



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