For the last seven years the community and its professional fishing guides have hosted the Wounded Warrior program on the Kenai River. An event designed to do a little more than simply saying “thank you for your service” to our military men and women who have been wounded in the line of duty. “It’s more than just clapping at the airport and that doesn’t happen other places, this community really means it when they say thank you,” commented Master Sgt. Henry Strozier at the Wounded Warrior banquet following a day of fishing on the river. At this year’s event more than 100 service members arrived from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage and others from Ft. Wainwright in Fairbanks and even a few soldiers from Kentucky were on the river. “It’s such a fabulous event and the least we can do,” Gary Turner told the Dispatch at the banquet, “I’ve been involved since the beginning with retired University of Alaska president Mark Hamilton as co-emcee but it thrills me to be a small part of this. It’s guys like Dave Goggia and Mike Fenton who run this event and all the sponsors that make it possible along with the Kenai River Professional Guides Assoc. that make this all volunteer event happen,” said Turner. For the last few years the Kenai River Sportfishing Assoc. has sponsored an accompanying program called American Hero’s and brings the children and family members whose parents are deployed to the Kenai, “We take the kids of deployed families out fishing and other activities like agate hunting and other kid related fun, then the kids come and help with the Wounded Warrior dinner helping to serve and run errands. The kids tonight ranged in age from 5 to about 12 and have great time learning at a young age to respect and appreciate those who fight for us to keep us free and it makes them even more proud of their parents who are serving,” explained Turner.
On Saturday at The Pillars landing as the soldiers were returning with huge smiles one boat of all women who called themselves the “Diva Dolls” earned some bragging rights. On a day when the fish were scarce the Diva Dolls did real well, “Of course we out fished the boys, we’re the Diva Dolls and now they know who we are,” laughed a happy U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Cevera Ocampo, “It was a great day and the people here really know how to recognize and appreciate those who are serving and frankly not too many do. My mother taught me that there are those who talk and those who do, that’s why I joined the service and that’s what you folks do with this event,” she said. “The catching may not have been so great, but the fishing doesn’t get any better when you have perfect sunny days like this and an opportunity to take these service men and women out on the river, it’s a great way to start the season for the guides,” said Mike Fenton, president of the Guides Assoc.