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Veterans learn healing power of fish

Posted: Friday, July 04, 2008

Eight veterans wounded in action were treated to a fishing trip and cookout at Krog's Kamp courtesy of the Kenai Elks Lodge on Thursday.

The cookout and fishing are just two events part of the first Alaska State Elks Association wounded veterans project, said Annalea Lott, Americanism chairperson for the Kenai Elks Lodge. Lott said she hopes every Elks Lodge in Alaska will continue the project, which is geared toward taking wounded veterans on outdoor adventures such as hunting, fishing, hiking and rafting.

"We want them to know how much they mean to us and how much we appreciate them," said Ken Cole, exalted ruler of the Kenai Elks Lodge. "We don't want the Vietnam days to ever happen again."

Mel Krogseng of Krog's Kamp donated two Kenai riverbank lodges for duration of the troops' stay. A former Air Force flight nurse, Krogseng and her family have always been supporters of the military.

"We just want to do our part to say thanks," she said.

The Warriors Transition Unit (WTU) was also an integral part of the project. The WTU was created in June of 2007 to improve the quality of life and care for those wounded in action and to make the transition to civilian life as easy as possible.

"It's phenomenal what these people have done for us," said WTU cadre squad leader Dave Urban.

Urban, who has been in the Army for nearly 18 years, said he has a great sense of pride in WTU's purpose. "We will not let what happened to the Vietnam veterans happen to today's veterans."

"The WTU is great. It should have been created years ago," said Capt. Aaron Willard.

Willard, like the other seven veterans, was stationed in Fairbanks. He spent nine months in Iraq.

"This is one of the best things ever done for us. The Elks have really shown us a lot of support," he said.

The troops will be in Kenai until Saturday, said Lott. They will be riding on the Elks float in today's parade and will be honored at the Peninsula Oilers baseball game beginning at 7 p.m.

"We want to raise awareness so these guys are always greeted with a smile and a thank you," Lott said.

Mike Nesper can be reached at mike.nesper@peninsulaclarion.com.



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