published: Wednesday, November 14, 2012
Freedom Excursions deserves a look
It's no secret that I have a soft spot in my heart for our veterans. My grandfather, dad and brother proudly served in the U.S. Army. My dad's biological father served in the U.S. Navy and I have uncles who served in the U.S. Navy. I also have cousins who served in the U.S. Air Force and cousins who served in the U.S. Marines. I believe the family has most of the branches covered.
I have always been honored to write the stories of our veterans, and that hasn't changed. Recently, I was honored to meet Lance Corporal Josh McKee and share his story with our readers.
That same weekend, I was also invited to attend the American Legion Post 69 Wounded Soldier Dinner. That was an honor all of its own and as I told Auxiliary President Mary Striecker and Vice President Linda Vargo, it was almost like coming home. My grandparents were both members of that Legion and, after all, Avon Park is where my newspaper career started. I was often invited to the Post for various reasons, and I rarely turned one away.
The Post has recently had a Legion Riders unit attached to it, and the motorcyclists had been out on a poker run. After great success and a lot of fun, the Riders returned to the Post for a yummy meal and a nice program.
Post Commander Doug Deierlein said there are a couple of programs for America's veterans that the Legion supports, but his favorite is Freedom Excursions.
Started by a retired Army captain, Freedom Excursions primarily focuses on the wounded warriors. The goal of the first venture was to have a safe and comfortable day of fun on the water. That was Sept. 13, 2008 and the maiden voyage had three generations of war included (Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom), all members of Amputee VA Support Team.
Doug shared with his guests that the excursions can be fishing charters, dolphin encounters, whatever the veteran or families of the fallen choose to do.
According to their website, freedomexcursions.org,">freedomexcursions.org, many of the participants have suffered physical wounds while others suffer psychological or emotional wounds. "Our recreational opportunities are tailored to the physical abilities of the wounded ..."
The organization actually has a simple mission: "To provide variosu fun, recreational, outdoor excursions for those who know the stree of military life. To encourage4 and inspire them to heal mind, body and spirit. To aid in the reintegration process and provide an opportunity to re-establish relationships. To replace stress with smiles!"
With the 28-foot boat, Freedom Excursions lives up to the motto "Healing heroes one wave at a time."
As Doug said, "These men and women who join the military sign a blank check. Our kids come home, some who graduated from high school just last year, without an arm or without a leg. Those are the ones who need our support."
Go to freedomexcursions.org to learn more about this really neat program.
And do me a favor, don't wait until Memorial Day, Fourth of July or Veteran's Day to say Thanks to a veteran.
Romona Washington is publisher and executive editor of the News-Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org/.
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