A Hometown Point of View of Warrior’s Weekend by Kelly Gee

Archived in the category: Events, General Info
Posted by Joyce Rhyne on 19 Jun 14 - 0 Comments

For a small town, Port O’Connor has a really big heart. Once again we shared that warmth and love with the Defenders of Freedom, the soldiers, heroes and families participating in the eighth annual Warriors Weekend. Reportedly over 800 warriors and their family members, more than 500 boats with captains and deckhands, and at least 500 volunteers sculpted sand, baited hooks, cooked, housed, cleaned fish, made desserts, carried, toted, massaged, bused, carted, fed, entertained, encouraged, served, photographed, hugged, greeted and loved our heroes. A small service for those men and women who put their very lives on the line for our freedom; and yet the undertaking of this event is daunting at best.

 

The amazing board and leaders who raise funds, plan and calculate the logistics and details deserve recognition and gratitude for all they do. The professionals who fly, drive, escort and run central command are underpaid, overextended and warrant appreciation and respect for their hard work. Still, I think those who live here and participate play a vital role in this weekend functioning. Full guest houses, crazy schedules, traffic jams and lots of new faces are the norm for this weekend. Still, those volunteers receive as much as they give. Warriors Weekend, whether their first or their eighth brings a joy and a blessing unique unto itself. Here are a few personal POV’s from those who found themselves enriched by being a part.

 

POV#1-
Hometown guy Matt Medford has been fishing the waters of POC since he was 18 months old. As soon as he could hold up a rod, his dad Marty taught him to fish. He has been a full time guide in POC since 2007. His family has provided food and bait, and fed sandcastle crews every year; but this year the fishing guide went fishing with some of our warriors. He reports a medium catch for that Saturday, not as great as some of his guide trips. They landed whiting, sheepshead, reds, hardhead, ladyfish and drum. They were mostly small, but the fun was big Matt said.   Many of the visiting soldiers were just about Matt’s age.  It sure makes you think he states. These solders leave their homes and families willingly to protect us and our great country. Matt was humbled by the chance to fish with them and assures me he would count it a privilege to take them fishing again next year.

 

POV #2
Jerry Ginzer of Ganado, Texas likes POC, but his usual fishing grounds are near Olivia. A welder by profession, fishing is just his hobby. He has captained a boat of fishing warriors the last two years and said his life is better for having the chance to do so.  Jerry is a Vietnam Veteran himself, and a friend invited him to help with Warriors Weekend fishing to meet some young vets serving now. Jerry fished with a young soldier named Chris from Colorado. Jerry says they caught some great fish. More importantly, Jerry says they had a ball just being out there, and he really enjoyed meeting Chris. It is just a special time, and such a little thing to do for someone who does so much. Jerry says it is much different than his war. These guys need our caring. Chris hesitantly left a wife and young son behind to attend the weekend, but found the whole experience to be a real gift of encouragement and support from others. Jerry counts himself fortunate to be part and is counting on being a part next year.

POV#3
Skip Ellis has a unique understanding of Iraqi and Afghanistan servicemen and women. Skip worked as a truck driver for a large private contract corporation in Iraq for just over two years. He returned home in 2005 a changed man having seen how our soldiers live, the hardships and challenges they face up close and personally. He was shot at, had locals attempt to rob him and his truck and was near more than one explosion. He also saw those young military service people sacrifice, put in danger and at extreme risk. He witnessed how they lived, worked and served.  Skip states it is a bad setting for our soldiers and most people really do not realize it. It took some time for him to restore and recuperate from the experience.

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as he heard about the Warriors Weekend, he knew he wanted and needed to be a part. This is his eighth year to share his love of fishing by coordinating the night fishing. Baiting hooks or advising on where to cast, for Skip it is all a labor of love. It has helped him feel better and move forward, and his girlfriend is a volunteer too. Skip says they will be involved as long as those soldiers keep coming. Some injured soldiers needed the night fishing to limit their sun exposure. Others just wanted one more chance to feel the tug on their line. Either way, Skip and a crew of many had lots of rods and reels, caught quite a few fish, and had bunches of happy soldiers casting and catching, laughing and sharing out at The Sanctuary from just after sunset to almost midnight. One volunteer brought his guitar and shared music, another had water and snacks, and still another was helping children and families of soldiers with the ins and outs of bank fishing. Under starlit skies, ‘fish-on’ ringing out on the night air and lots of smiles all around made it hard to tell who was happier to be there. Skip says you can be sure he will be ready again next year. He loves how it feels when he sees those warriors having such a great time.


POV #4
Erny and Joane McDonough co pastor at Fisherman’s Chapel, an interdenominational church in POC. They have many projects and lots of jobs in our community, but none they find as fun and fulfilling as stuffing breakfast burritos for the many heroes of Warriors Weekend. What is not really seen by others is all the preparation and planning it takes for a small church to make a success of such an undertaking. They must raise funds to pay for supplies, recruit labor, order supplies and equipment, troubleshoot and then actually cook and assemble the breakfast before 7:00 AM Saturday morning. Two hundred dozen eggs, 2700 tortillas, cheese by the pound, smoked sausage by the panful, cases of juice and milk and fruit ordered in advance are just the beginning of the project. Missing apples from the grocery delivery called for some heavy hitter problem solving by John and Jeff at SpeedyStop, but that got done. Eggs require cracking early, but Carol made that a party. Pans of eggs need stirring while most are still sleeping, but brothers Kenneth and Dennis and others were there plenty early. So, with smiles and singing and patience galore; Erny and Joane accomplished the task, and you can count on them to be not only willing but happy, ready and able to ‘egg on’ the breakfast crew again next year.


POV #5
Jim and Linda Butler are POCites through and through. Linda works at Clarks Inn and Jim is retired. For the last three years they have worked together to coordinate the golf cart brigade that serves as ground transportation on Warriors Weekend. Originally, the Calhoun County Golf Cart Association volunteered to cart soldiers around. Many of those have moved on to other assignments and jobs, but Jim and Linda love the job of driving soldiers, their families, volunteers, boat captains and crew and others to and from events and locations throughout POC. More than 10 golf carts, a mule and a van driven by local volunteers drove pretty much wherever they were needed. Linda drove two very sunburned soldiers to SpeedyStop for some much needed aloe gel, drove a medical volunteer to gather more supplies needed to deal with scrapes and cuts of the day, and ran around town all day delivering soldiers and their families to motels, condos, fishing piers, beaches and shopping, massages and activities, even to dinner at the community center. Those volunteers started at 6 AM and many had passengers until dark. One of Linda’s pickups was a very frustrated fishing soldier shut out on this day of fishing. He boarded her mule grumbling and down, but after sharing a ride and her heart, Linda dropped him off laughing and claiming he would give fishing and POC a try again. The volunteer drivers said this was a great way to really connect to our guests. They got to really talk with them a few at a time. When asked why he volunteers, Jim said he loves to see how happy it makes the soldiers. They are already planning an even bigger brigade of carts and drivers for next year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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