The Wounded Warrior Project was founded to help service members who have been injured while serving our country in the days since Sept. 11, 2001. Its mission is “To honor and empower wounded warriors.”
One of the ways the program does this is through Project Odyssey, where groups of soldiers go on retreats that use recreational activities to help participants work through their combat stress, connect with their peers and improve their mental outlook.
When Hastings met with the group, they were enjoying a relaxing day of golf at Long Marsh Golf Club in Rotonda before heading off to dinner and then the VFW in Englewood. With a busy weekend ahead, they did not have time to visit the island, so Hastings decided to go out to meet them.
Hastings said, “I thanked them for their service and sacrifice for our country and explained that we were proud to have a chance to honor our men and women in uniform on Armed Forces Day on May 20, during the Gasparilla Island Kids Classic and Tarpon Festival Weekend. The day was topped off with Nashville Recording Artist Colton James singing his moving tribute to the men and women of our armed forces, called ‘Brave Men.’ The Lemon Bay High School ROTC Color Guard was on hand for the performance.”
Hastings also heard some of the tales of the soldiers while he was out there.
“We talked about their experiences from Viet Nam to Afghanistan, which they shared freely, with great humility and in some cases good humor,” Hastings said. “The camaraderie and good will shared by the men playing golf that day was truly inspirational and it was my honor to meet and spend just a few minutes with them.”
Hastings left them with a few gifts on behalf of the Chamber and the island which included Guy Harvey exclusively designed World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament T-shirts, tournament magazines that talk specifically about the conservation of Boca Grande’s world famous fishery, some polarized sunglasses courtesy of Panama Jack and their own copies of Colton James’ CD.
He also extended an offer for members of the Wounded Warrior Project to be part of next year’s World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament and Ladies Day as members of two teams, which Salas was happy to accept on behalf of the project.
“We want them to experience our tournament and how we promote responsible angling to help preserve our coastal marine environment and advance conservation, education and sportsmanship,” said Hastings. “The chamber plans to sponsor two teams, one for the World’s Richest Tarpon Tournament, and one for female Wounded Warriors in the Ladies Day Tournament.”
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