Troops participate in the annual Wounded Warrior fishing event

Alaska State Elks has a photo gallery of the Wounded Warriors event online, available here.

With the 4th of July holiday just around the corner, you’ll see many patriotic colors adorning the community as Americans prepare to celebrate this national day of freedom. But celebrating those very freedoms is something that took on a new meaning on the Kenai River June 17th and 18th in Soldotna. Thanks to the volunteer efforts of several key individuals and the support of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association and generous sponsors, the popular Wounded Warrior project returned to the area bringing 106 service men and women for fishing and fun on the Kenai.

According to Dave Goggia, president of the Kenai River Professional Guide Association, and chairman of the Wounded Warrior committee, there were over 75 participants in the 2010 event. These participants included not only wounded warriors, but active military men and women as well who enjoyed two days of guided fishing as well as meals and lodging in the local community.

The recent event got underway when the buses departed Fort Richardson and Fort Wainright, and the troops arrived to Soldotna where they were on the river beneath sunny skies by Friday afternoon. 6 Kenai River Kings were landed on Friday, with a nice 47” fish taking the bite of a first time angler who had never held a rod in his hands before. Despite the waist to shoulder body cast the angler wore to deal with his broken back, he was thrilled with the results of his inaugural fishing attempts.

Volunteers from across the state gathered in support of the event. The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce served breakfast to the warriors as day was breaking Saturday morning, and after another round of fishing thanks to the 54 professional guides that donated their charters, a pig-roast BBQ brought the event together with a guest appearance from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski. Thanks to sponsorship donations, a number of spectacular door prize gifts were provided to the warriors, including firearms, rod & reel combos, tools, flyout fishing trips, stays at hotels and dining certificates just to name a few.

Goggia was genuine in his appreciation to the Kenai River Professional Guides association as well as the many statewide sponsors that help to make the event possible. He estimated that although the money is not the issue in the reason the event takes place, it does cost over $50K to put on the Wounded Warriors fishing event. He was quick to point to the important role that the volunteers and the many donations have in keeping costs lower, and that the fundamental message is that the whole event is about showing our troops how much we appreciate what they have done to protect our freedoms. “The community really rolls out the red carpet for these troops.” Goggia stated.

Ruth Garbett, a nurse case manager at Fort Wainright in Fairbanks who works with the soldiers in their often painful and challenging rehabilitation, offered a profound statement from one of the soldiers as to the importance of the Wounded Warriors fishing event. She said that one of the warriors had made the comment: “I’ve been back (from the field of duty) for a while, but this is the first time I truly thought “hey, people really do care about what we went through” and I feel really appreciated.”

Planning for the 2012 event gets underway in November. You can visit www.krpga.org/events/warrior/ for information and to donate.

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