Warriors get support at 4th annual muster (Video)
March 16, 2013 at 9:01 p.m.
Updated March 16, 2013 at 10:17 p.m.
Behind Javier Rivera's charred patches of flaky facial skin and disfigured nose lies a story and - remarkably - a smile.
"This is better than I thought," the San Antonio man said, holding fast to his 19-month-old son Abdiel with what is left of his amputated right arm.
Afghanistan in November 2007 made him the man he is today.
None of the wounds mattered Saturday when Rivera joined other wounded soldiers for the fourth annual Warrior's Weekend muster.
The muster raises money to send busloads of wounded soldiers to Port O'Connor for a weekend fishing trip; this will be the trip's seventh year but Rivera's first.
Rivera was wounded on a mission to fix a combat outpost when he drove over a pressure-plated improvised explosive device, turning his vehicle into a raging inferno.
He managed to escape within minutes, but two others, his best friend and his captain, died.
But these days, life is looking better. He has his son, and his wife, Ana, who both joined him for the muster dinner. Now, he's ready for the May fishing trip.
"It's great - the support they give us and our families," he said.
Ron Kocian, president of Warrior's Weekend, said support is what the event is all about. Kocian basked in the thought of an even stronger turnout this year.
"It's bigger, much bigger," he said. "It's going great."
On top of a large silent auction, the muster also had a live auction with more than 80 items, including a 1997 Harley Davidson. If that wasn't enough, all 140 tables, which each seat eight, were filled.
Sand sculptor Gloria Fric, 63, sat at a booth, watching the veterans mingle.
Fric has volunteered for the past five years, helping create a patriotic sand sculpture in Port O'Connor for the warriors' May arrival. The sculptures are typically made with more than 130 tons of sand and, of course, several helpers, she said.
"They've given us so much," she said, a bit teary-eyed. "It's a labor of love for us."
Though Rivera is just one of many Texas wounded soldiers, he wants the volunteers to know their hard work does not go unnoticed.
"I didn't think there were people out there that were so generous," he said. "This is a life-changing experience."