Community rallies to support Wounded Warriors in Action charity

Area Wide News
Tammy Curtis

What better way to serve the public than helping veterans? One local group held an annual charity event Jan. 9 to support the Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation (WWIA).

Headed by Howard Baswell with Spring River Canoe Club and Spring River Land Company, a group of local business owners raised $1,500 to make one veteran very happy.

Baswell explained he frequently vacations in Mexico and while on a fishing trip he met a group of soldiers with physical injuries, as well as those often not visible on the outside. Baswell said he spoke to the lady who owned the guide company inquiring about the men. What she told him not only changed his life, but also prompted him to give to the WWIA.

(Photo)
Seven of the eight Wounded Warriors who participated in the 2015 Dave Harris Memorial Billfishing event sponsored by Wounded Warriors in Action, Inc., a Florida based charity that supports combat wounded veterans. Locally $1,500 was raised to sponsor one of the men for the May 20-24, 2016 event in Puerto Venturas, Mexico.

Baswell explained each year, the Florida based charity hosts a Billfish Tournament and the men he met were part of the Wounded Warrior group. He spent time visiting with the wounded soldiers and explained it costs $1,500 for one soldier to make the trip to Puerto Aventuras, Mexico for the Dave Harris Memorial Billfish Tournament. After speaking with one of the veterans who had lost a leg in service to the U.S. he said, "This trip doesn't just make our year, it makes our life. It is the best thing we have done since we have been back." Baswell immediately donated and enlisted the help of other local businesses to help raise money for the project.

 

With the help of N-Sta Smile and Spring River Barbecue, the group raised the needed money to send a wounded warrior to the 2016 tournament in May. The veteran will be able to get away and enjoy peace and tranquility of the ocean while also joining with other service members like themselves who share some of the same experiences, making the trip both fun and therapeutic.

Former KAIT weatherman and local river rat Terry Wood, served as the charity events master of ceremonies at Cruisers in Hardy. The community packed the house to support the project and enjoy a night of good food, drinks and entertainment. Baswell and Kerry Evans with N-Sta Smile presented the $1,500 check to Retired Hardy Police Chief Ernie Rose and his son and veteran Jeremy Rose on behalf of the group. The money will be sent to the Florida charity to fund the warrior's trip. Each year, eight are selected for the once in a lifetime five day trip in which they fish, golf, dive and relax in Mexico, far removed from the war that changed their lives forever.

Last year, Raymond Kusch and Jason Gaertner were among the men to attend the event. In 2012, Kusch was on a dismounted ambush patrol when he stepped on a pressure plate of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) resulting in the loss of his left leg. He also suffered shrapnel wounds to all extremities, slight nerve damage in his right arm, a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), a punctured ear drum and continues to battle post traumatic stress and depression.

Gaertner served in the Marines for five years. In 2010, during his third deployment to Afghanistan, Justin lost both legs and sustained other life threatening injuries while doing an IED sweep to establish a helicopter landing zone to evacuate injured Marines. He spent the next year and a half on his recovery and learning how to walk again using prosthetic legs. He has since become a world-class athlete competing in various adaptive sporting events. The stories of the other six men who were chosen to make the trip are equally harrowing.

The Wounded Warriors in Action Foundation Inc. (WWIA) serves the nation's combat wounded Purple Heart recipients by providing world class outdoor sporting activities as a means to recognize and honor their sacrifice, encourage independence and connections with communities and promote healing and wellness through camaraderie and a shared passion for the outdoors.

The goal of the foundation is to increase the veterans self reliance and confidence while allowing them to enjoy the outdoors to help them develop a sense of belonging and promote healing and wellness.

The local group makes donations to charity each year. Baswell said they alternate between Arkansas Children's Hospital, Shop with a Cop and WWIA.

For more information about the foundation, or to host a fundraiser to sponsor a veteran for the event, visit www.daveharrismemorial.org.

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