Texas Community Brings Troops, Civilians Together Through Fishing
(May 28, 2009)
Army Spc. Ross Pelto holds a 37-inch red drum he caught while fishing during the Warrior's Weekend in Port O'Connor Texas, May 17, 2009.
PORT O'CONNOR, Texas, May 21, 2009 –
Because soldiers spend most of their time with other
soldiers, their everyday lives seem completely normal to
them. But every once in a while, they run into someone who
tells them that what they do is extraordinary.
Army Pvt. Michael Varner, a cannon crew member from Carson
City, Nev., who serves with 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment,
had such an experience during an event called Warrior's
Weekend here May 16. The event was set up to thank soldiers
for their service and sacrifices with a day of free fishing.
“I'm used to interacting with my fellow soldiers; I haven't
had the chance to be around civilians too much,” Varner
said. “A lady walked up to me and shook my hand. I kind of
had to get used it.”
About 8,000 people came to the event, including almost 200
wounded soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C., Fort Campbell, Ky.,
Fort Hood, Texas, and Walter Reed Army Medical Center in
Washington, D.C., as well as many soldiers who hadn't been
wounded, said Ron Kocian, a co-chairman for the event.
So many boat owners volunteered to take the servicemembers
and their families, Kocian said, that there was enough space
for Vietnam veterans as well as Operation Iraqi Freedom and
Operation Enduring Freedom veterans.
“It's not just about the fishing,” Kocian said. “It's about
giving the public the opportunity to show that they love the
Kocian served in the Army during the Vietnam War, and said
he got together with friends to help set up the Warrior's
Weekend because he remembers the way his fellow soldiers
were treated when they returned to the United States.
“It will remind [soldiers] that they're loved, and that
we're not forgetting them,” Kocian said.
In addition to fishing, soldiers also participated in
activities such as climbing and archery at the Port O'Connor
Community Center. They also attended a dedication ceremony
for a field of flags put up by a local church as a show of
solidarity for servicemembers.
At the end of the day, a “dinner with the troops” was held
at the community center to give civilians and troopers one
more chance to connect.
Julian Perez heard about the event through a motorcycle
group called the Patriot Guard Riders.
|Motorcyclists from the Patriot Guard Riders show their support to servicemembers at the Warrior's Weekend in Port O'Connor, Texas, May 16, 2009. Local residents treated wounded soldiers and veterans to free fishing at the event.
“It's for the troops,” he said. “For everything they do for
us, it's time we did something for them.”
Perez said several members of his family have served in the
armed forces, and that more people need to meet
servicemembers in person. “They ought to be able to sit
together with these veterans and realize what they're doing
so we can enjoy our Saturday nights,” he said.
Army Spc. Ross Pelto, a Detroit native and paratrooper with
the 82nd Airborne Division's 1st Battalion, 505th Parachute
Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, is a fishing
enthusiast who was wounded during his last deployment to
Iraq. He ended up getting the largest catch of his life at
the event, a 37-inch red drum, or “Texas redfish,” as it's
“This is the first event I've ever been to like this,” Pelto
said. “I've never seen this kind of gratitude before; Texas
really knows how to treat a veteran.”
Article and photos by Army Sgt. Stephen Decatur
82nd Airborne Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team public affairs office
American Forces Press Service
Comment on this article