Every person we meet has the potential to impact our lives – though none more so than a wounded warrior.
They courageously serve, sacrifice and wear battle scars in our stead. Sometimes an opportunity arises where we can show them by our actions how much they matter.
Members of the Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club, Southern Eagle Distributing and the city of Richmond Hill have joined forces to spomsor the first Fort McAllister Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo.
All efforts for the Aug. 20 fishing rodeo are strictly for “thanking our warriors.” The boats will launch from Fort McAllister Marina at 7 a.m. and return at 3 p.m. Fish will be weighed in between 3-5 p.m.
So far, 57 soldiers from the Warrior Transition Unit at Fort Stewart have signed up to go fishing, and nearly 60 boats have signed up to make it happen. And anyone with a boat can volunteer their time, fuel and service by calling (912) 856-2727.
The fishing club is a nonprofit organization established in 1997. Each year the club makes an effort to help local families in need. Additionally, they host fishing tournaments for kids and support the Great Ogeechee Seafood Festival. The Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo is their first project for 2011.
Sam Davis, a member of the newly organized ham radio club in Richmond Hill, Coastal Amateur Radio Team (CART), is excited about that group’s contribution to the fishing rodeo.
“In case any boat has an emergency, we’ll be able to be contacted by them,” he said. “We’re setting up a fully equipped radio station at the Fort McAllister Marina.
“We’ll have about 15 boats positioned all over the intercoastal waterways…two will be anchored 25 miles offshore. There will be ham radios installed in each boat, as well as ham radio operators aboard.”
CART President Larry Lowe and Sam will establish and man a ham operation station on Ossabaw Island for the entire rodeo.
“Ham radios will probably be the only way the fishing boats will be able to communicate,” Sam said. “In case of an emergency, we’ll be able to get help to them ASAP through our contact with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of Natural Resources.”
The kick-off for the fishing rodeo begins Aug. 5 with an appreciation banquet at the Richmond Hill City Center in J.F. Gregory Park for the wounded warriors. There, the participating captains and crew of the 100 boats involved in the fishing rodeo get to meet the soldiers assigned to them.
Michael Biering, deputy garrison commander at Fort Stewart and Hunter Army Airfield, plans to attend the banquet. There will be a number of state and local dignitaries and politicians attending, as well. Former Richmond Hill mayor and honorary member of the Fort McAllister Sport Fishing Club Richard Davis will serve as the master of ceremonies.
Following the banquet, a free concert for the public will be held from 7-10 p.m. at the amphitheater in J.F. Gregory Park.
What an opportunity this will be to personally thank these awesome warriors for what one can only imagine they’ve endured.
It wasn’t surprising to hear the former mayor has been challenged with the evening’s production. Forever young at heart as well as an entertainer, he said he plans to make sure the night is memorable.
“I don’t have a budget to work with, so I’m doing the best I can,” he said facetiously with a chuckle.
Knowing Richard, I promise he still has a few unexpected and exciting tricks up his sleeve.
“We’re going to have two bands, Knight Moods from Midway and the Greenhouse band with Tim Gaylor on the drums. Also, Jan Spillane from Savannah,” Richard said.
Soulful singer/songwriter Jan fuses together folk, blues, country and a touch of jazz into something quite extraordinary. I was overwhelmed by Jan’s warmth and charisma when we talked recently. She said she’s deeply honored to play for the troops and the Richmond Hill community.
“It’s such an uncanny thing, recently Caroline Verner (from Savannah) and I co-wrote a song about wounded warriors, ’Welcome Home,’” she said. “We feel the troops were blindsided by the media and didn’t know how much the people in the United States cared about them and were praying for their safe return.
“We wrote the song to let them know we are grateful for what they did for us. They are our heroes. ‘Welcome Home’ will be my opening song.”
For more information about Jan, visit website janspillane.com.
Richard left me with one tantalizing tidbit.
“The music starts that evening at 7 p.m. We might have a surprise guest…Merle Haggard,” he said.
It was late one afternoon last week, when I saw Richard sitting alone on a park bench. He was enjoying the cool breeze and shadowy tranquility near the Veterans Monument in J.F. Gregory Park. His solemn attitude puzzled me.
Wounded warriors were on his mind. His steel blue eyes revealed his intense emotions.
“I’m honored to be a part of this special occasion,” he said. “In some way it will give me a chance to do what I like most – praise our soldiers.”
Without blinking an eye, he continued: “These are some of the men and women responsible for our freedom. It’s a prime time for us to let them know how much they’re appreciated.”
When he spoke again after several moments of silence, it became clear why he was there.
“While I was mayor in the late 1990s, I attended a Georgia Vietnam Veterans meeting at the Richmond Hill Holiday Inn, with about 200 people,” he said. “When I left, I made a commitment to erect a memorial in Richmond Hill.”
In November 2004, Mayor Davis and the City Council unveiled the Veterans Monument in the park.
As he got up to leave, he glanced over his shoulder at the impressive monument and then slowly began walking toward his car. Naturally, he took the short cut, agilely stepping over a 3-foot fence. No problem at all for the 76-year-old political warrior.
As the song goes, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” Now that’s something to be proud of.
For more information about the Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo, call (912) 856-2727.