Thursday, May 9, was a special day in Seadrift, as residents lined the highway to welcome a group of wounded servicemen arriving for a Combat Marine Outdoors fishing adventure hosted by Cliburn Ranch. Spectators waved flags and cheered as the distinguished group passed by, led by the motorcycle group, the Patriot Guard Riders. The welcoming party included the entire student body of Seadrift School, each child waving a flag that had been provided by the Seadrift Chamber of Commerce. Disembarking from their vehicles (which included Seadrift fire trucks), the soldiers met and shook hands with many of the children.
The group of 15 active duty servicemen are all Army and Marines recovering from their injuries at San Antonio Military Medical Center. They are part of the more than 1,000 injured servicemen who have been the recipients of Combat Marine Outdoors fishing and hunting adventures. Leading the group were two of the organization’s board members, Rusty Hicks and Ret. Master Gunnery Sgt. Art Garcia.
Founded in 2005 by Marine Col. Allan Orr, Combat Marine Outdoors’ goal is “to allow these heroic warriors the opportunity to have an outdoor adventure of a lifetime; to make sure they understand that their service and sacrifice to our country are deeply appreciated; to aid in their vision for an exciting future.” As a result, “Combat Marine Outdoors have witnessed hearts that have been mended, wounds that have been healed, hope for the future and lives that have been changed forever.”
These wounded soldiers, after being so honored by Seadrift residents, took part that evening in honoring three older veterans at a dinner held at “the barn” in Seadrift. Hosting the dinner were Air Force Veteran Sam Marshall and Army Vietnam Veteran Butch Hodges. A dinner of “roast sucking pig”, prepared by Chef Jerry Pizzifola, was provided by Pizzifola’s Barbecue of Houston.
At seven o’clock that evening, Sgt. Art Garcia and two of the young soldiers conducted a “Retreat Service”, lowering the flag while Army Veteran Leonard Pokluda played “Taps” on his trumpet. After folding the flag, Sgt. Garcia presented it to Dave Gonzales. With words of appreciation for his service, Rusty Hicks then presented Mr. Gonzales with a Ka-Bar knife.
About Dave Gonzales:
Marine Lance Corporal Dave Gonzales received a Purple Heart for his service in World War II, having been wounded at Iwo Jima. He went on to fight in the Korean Conflict. After the war, he traveled the country for 25 years as a corporate executive chef. He settled in Seadrift about 17 years ago. He and his wife Alice, both having been widowed, have been married for nine years.
Also honored: George Rogers and Harold Martin:
George Rogers, who held the rank of Marine Sgt. Major, received a Challenge Coin from Combat Marine Outdoors. Mr. Rogers and his wife came from Rockport to attend this special event. He was honored for his 34 years of military service, which included serving in Korea and Vietnam.
Also receiving a Challenge Coin was Marine Veteran Harold Martin, Army Veteran of World War II, having served in Iwo Jima and Guam. This honor was accepted for him by his son, Mike Martin, Retired Army Colonel, who served in Vietnam and received two purple hearts.
As the young servicemen honored and thanked the older, the older, in turn, expressed their thanks to the young. It was obvious to the “civilians” in attendance, that honor and respect among the military has no age limits.
At the end of the evening, the fifteen young wounded servicemen were given their boat assignments for the next day’s fishing. Ten boat captains had donated their time and expertise to making sure these young men had a fishing trip to remember, and all the young men were anxious for morning to arrive and the adventure to begin.
Action TrackChair is an all-terrain wheelchair that can literally go anywhere — on sand, in the forest, through shallow streams.The chairs are a high-tech marvel. Small switches give physically challenged folks almost full mobility and an acute sense of independence. The chairs cost about $15,000 each. We the people have to help our wounded warriors regain a semblance of control over their lives, because the federal government will not. You can help. Go to: independencefund.org