Thank you for your service

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This picture was taken on Pine Island at the VFW.

Sunday afternoon I had the privilege of covering the Veterans Musical Tribute in Jonesborough, Tenn. as an assignment for the Herald & Tribune.

The beautiful ceremony kicked off with a video sharing the history of the Star Spangled Banner in celebration of its 200th anniversary. Although I had watched it before, it was interesting to watch yet again.

The ceremony continued with additional videos and music sung by  the Appalachian Express Chorus. After the program concluded, I walked up to one of the singers in the choir and told him he had a beautiful voice. He did a solo number during one of the songs. The appreciation in his eyes and his handshake still has me smiling a few days later.

This tribute was yet another reminder of what our veterans have done for this country, both young and old.

Jonesborough Veterans Affairs Committee Chair Marion Light who organized the annual veterans program started off the program by sharing the statement below with the crowd:

“It is a soldier, not the reporter who has given us the freedom of press. It is the solider, not the poet who has given us the freedom of speech. It is the solider, not the educator who has given us the freedom to protest. It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is graced by a flag to give the protestor the freedom to abuse and burn the flag.”

Although I do not come from a strong military background, I have grown to know a very special veteran who spends countless hours helping other wounded veterans. I met this Marine in 2012 while I was covering an event for veterans on Father’s Day.

Dave has such a special place in my heart. I have nothing but respect for what he has done and what his visions are for the organization he founded, Wounded Warrior Anglers. It is such a beautiful thing to watch and hear his stories of how he is helping his fellow veterans get through some hard times as they struggle with injuries and PTSD. That help is provided in such a therapeutic way, fishing in the beautiful waters of Southwest Florida while creating an everlasting companionship.

Since that afternoon where we shared a picnic table at Olde Fish House talking, he has introduced me to countless other veterans who have left an everlasting imprint on my heart. I can never fathom what these service men and women went through while fighting for our freedom. With that said, it brings nothing but joy to my heart when I am given that opportunity to shake these veterans hands and tell them “thank you.”

I must revisit a memory that still more than a year later has the same effect on me that it did back in April 2013.

The moments I shared with Angel, who served in the Army for 26 ½ years, tugged at my heart. As we sat there, he shared a few stories of when he was deployed, which truly meant a lot to me.

Before I said goodbye, I thanked him. He instantly asked what did I do? I said you served our country and fought for our freedom. The emotion he shared at that moment will be a part of me forever. It still gives me goose bumps as I sit and write about it now. These men and women who join the service do not do it anticipating a thank you from us civilians, but rather because something called them to that job.

The honesty in Angel’s eyes touched me in a way I cannot explain. I told him just know that you are appreciated before I shook his hand once again.

The goosebumps resurfaced as I reread that passage.

So as I sat in the audience taking in the videos, the comments and the songs, my thoughts constantly wandered to Dave and how much being a part of the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers means to me.

Dave, thank you for your service. Thank you for fighting for our freedom. Most of all, thank you for caring enough to make a difference in the lives of so many veterans through your generosity, your vision and your countless hours of dedication to the organization I am proud to be a part of.

There were two videos that I have to share from the program.

One of the video’s was Ronald Regan’s Veterans Day Prayer, the clip is added below.

Although the entire prayer raised the hairs on my arms as I sat with the audience listening to the words spoken, these words below grabbed a hold of me.

“All we can ever do for our heroes is remember them and remember what they did and memories are transmitted through words. We see these soldiers in our minds as old and wise. We see them something as the founding fathers gray with gray hair. But most of them were boys when they died and they gave up two lives. The one that they were living and the one they would have lived.”

The other video was called “Solider Deck of Cards.” Rather than writing an excerpt  of what was said, please watch the video until the very end.

I love when I am assigned an event that touches me  . . . I loved how the program ended . . . members of each branch of service stood as the room filled with applause.

Happy Veterans Day.

A pure fishing boat

It’s that time of year again . . .  the organization Wounded Warrior Anglers is raffling another boat, which will support America’s disabled veterans.

This year the 2015 NauticStar 2110 Sport, said to be a pure fishing boat, has a price tag of $55,350,000.

There are 4,000 raffle tickets available this year, 1,000  more than previous years.

“We would not be able to do this without it being deeply discounted by manufacturers and key sponsorships to our organization,” WWA President David Souders said of the raffle boat.

Those sponsors include Fort Myers Marine, NauticStar Boats, Magic Tilt Trailers, Infinite Ideas, Olde Fish House Marina, Center Bait & Tackle and Just Right Realty – Mike Carroll.

The NauticStar 21′ boat has a 150 HP Yamaha; a magic tilt tandem axle aluminum with custom aluminum wheel trailer; custom patriotic boat wrap by Infinite Ideas; power pole 8′ Sportsman II Black with Jack Plate Adaptor; trolling motor – Minn-Kota RT70 – 70 pounds thrust 24v; Jack Plate – Atlas 6″ hydraulic and a Fishfinder GPS – Raymarine Dragonfly7 with CHIRP DownVision technology.

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“This fishing machine has been fully equipped and designed by the warriors of Wounded Warrior Anglers to be exactly what you need to fish the inshore and coastal waters of the United States and enjoy your day of fishing,” Souders said.

Raffle tickets are $20 for one or six for $100. They can be purchased at the locations listed below, from the organizations website at www.woundedwarrioranglers.org, or by calling Vice President Judy Souders at (423) 620-9104.

  • Fort Myers Marine, 2137 Fowler St., Fort Myers, FL;
  • Olde Fish House Marina, 4530 Pine Island Rd., NW, Matlacha, FL;
  • Center Bait & Tackle, 10707 Stringfellow Rd., Bokeelia, FL;
  • Rob’s Bait & Tackle, 3714 Del Prado  Blvd., Cape Coral, FL;
  • Pineland Marina, 13921 Waterfront Dr., Bokeelia, FL;
  • Beef O’ Brady’s, 3015 Pine Island Rd. and 2481 Del Prado Blvd. N. both in Cape Coral, FL;
  • Miceli’s Restuarant, 3930 Pine Island Rd., Matlacha, FL
  • Bayou Adventure, 27725 Main St., Lacombe, LA

The organization will provide updates of where the boat will be on display during select local events on its website http://www.woundedwarrioranglers.org. The boat will also be on display Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Ft. Myers Marine.

The winner of the boat raffle does not need to be present to win on Saturday, May 23. They are responsible for the tag, title and registration, delivery and dealer prep and all applicable taxes.


Other specifics of the boat are listed below with the key items in bold:

Construction:

  • Wood Free Construction
  • Limited Lifetime Hull Warranty
  • Self-Bailing Cock Pit with Molded Non Skid
  • Anchor Locker with Anchor
  • RTM Fiberglass Lids
  • Teleflex BayStar Pro Hydraulic Steering
  • Teleflex Extreme Control Cables
  • Molded Anchor Storage with Anchor
  • Insulated Fish Box
  • Front and Rear Baitwell
  • Large Front Dry Storage Box
  • Rod Box

Hardware:

  • Stainless Steel Locks
  • Stainless Steel Rub Rail Insert
  • 6 Rod Holders in the Console
  • Stainless Steel Cleats
  • 2 Gunnel Rod Holders
  • Brass Splashwell Drains

Console:

  • Stainless Steel Grab Rail on Console
  • Drink Holders
  • Windshield
  • Horn with Stainless Steel Grill
  • 2 Rear Jump Seats

Marine Grade Electrical System:

  • Deutsche Electrical Connectors
  • Speedo, Tachometer, Fuel and Volt Gauge
  • Auto Bilge Pump
  • 2 Aerator Pumps 800 GPH
  • Circuit Breaker Protection

Optional Features:

  • Power Pole 8′ Sportsman II Black with Jack Plate Adapter
  • Minn-Kota RT70 – 70lbs Thrust 24v Hand Control
  • Atlas 6” Jack Plate, Hydraulic
  • Raymarine Dragonfly7 w/ CHIRP DownVision technology
  • Deluxe Leaning Post with Made on Backrest w Performance Cooler
  • Dual Pro Charger PRO2
  • Dual Battery Switch
  • (2) Additional Gunnel Rod Holders with Caps
  • Magic Tilt Tandem Axle Aluminum Trailer
  • Custom Aluminum Wheels

The first boat raffle was an 18-foot NauticStar, 1810 Nautic Bay boat. Last year’s winner of the boat raffle received a 21-foot NauticStar 2110 Sport Bay.

The proceeds from the raffle ticket sales will help the organization continue its mission to “help rehabilitate the mind, body and soul of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”

The organization helps its warriors by taking them out on the water for a day of fishing. This outing helps promote a friendly and peaceful environment to help warriors heal.

Wounded Warrior Anglers also help the warrior’s caregivers by treating them to a day of relaxation at the spa.

“Changing Lives One Warrior at a Time!”