Tranquility and relaxation, coupled with friendship and good eating was the order of business for a group of injured soldiers stationed at Fort Gordon as they enjoyed a fishing trip to Thomson last Saturday.
"Our soldiers have done so much for our country," said Charlie Lewis, a local businessman and owner of Cedar Crest Farm, where soldiers injured from two wars and in training gathered to experience a little something different about life. "We wanted to show them that we care about them and support them. These folks are out protecting us - some of them paying ultimate sacrifices so that we might continue to have the freedoms that we have in America."
It marked the second straight year that Mr. Lewis and his wife, Trudy, have played hosts to the wounded warriors at their farm, off Cedar Rock Road, just outside of Thomson.
This year's fishing trip was coordinated by retired U.S. Army Sgt. First Class Jerome Sessions, of Hephzibah, along with assistance from retired Sgt. Tim Cox, of Grovetown.
"They all enjoy themselves, whether they catch a fish or not," said Mr. Cox, who talked Mr. Lewis into hosting the event last year, thinking it would be a way to get some of the soldiers out of having the blues feeling. "It's the best therapy in the world for them."
Command Sgt. Maj. Vernon Praymous of Fort Gordon also attended and praised the efforts of the volunteers behind the fishing trip to help wounded warriors.
"I think this is phenomenal," Sgt. Maj. Praymous told The McDuffie Mirror. "Fishing and the fresh air - it's all good for the soul. I thank all of those who have had any part in putting all of this together."
One of those who spent many hours doing just that was Sgt. Sessions.
"We tried to make this year's fishing outing as special as we could for everyone," said Sgt. Sessions. "Without these people, like Mr. Lewis and his wife and many others, this event would not be possible."
This year, several area businesses sponsored the event with donated gifts for the soldiers.
"The donations of gifts we received from businesses were really welcomed," said Sgt. Sessions. "It meant a lot to the soldiers who received these gifts."
One of the 28 soldiers enjoying fishing in the Lewis' large ponds was 20-year-old William Ford, of Paducah, Ky. PFC Ford joined the U.S. Army just two weeks after graduating from Paducah-Tilghman High School.
"There were no jobs around when I graduated and I wanted to serve my country, so I joined the Army," said PFC Ford. "I come from a big military family - a lot of my family members have served in several wars and now I have, too."
Since it got hot quickly last Saturday morning, it made it a little tougher trying to catch fish. And even though PFC Ford didn't catch any fish, he said he still had fun just relaxing and soaking the hook, while seated in a chair, casting with a loaned rod and reel.
"This is the most fun I've had in a while," said PFC Ford, who was injured in November 2008 when a bomb went off near where he was cutting a road in an undisclosed location of Iraq. "I really appreciate the opportunity of being able to have come fishing here."
Lt. Joshua Highsmith, 25, of Morrow, Ga., was another soldier who enjoyed the fishing trip.
"It's wonderful," said Lt. Highsmith, a member of the National Guard Combat Engineering Unit out of Statesboro, Ga.
Sgt. Howard Hatfield, of Labanon, Ohio, and a 19-year veteran of the U.S. Army, said, "It feels good to get out of the barracks and relax by fishing."
He praised Mr. Lewis for allowing him and his fellow soldiers to fish on his farm.
"He's an outstanding guy for letting us do this and for feeding us," said Sgt. Hatfield, who was wounded outside Kuwait while en route to Iraq in May 2008.
He currently is involved in rehabilitation, like all of the other wounded soldiers who went on the fishing trip, at Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center at Fort Gordon.
Amber Hendricks, another soldier, who hails from Elkmont, Ala., said the fishing trip did her a lot of good.
"It was a great way to relieve a lot of stress that I've experienced since being injured while in training," said Spec. Hendricks, whose husband of nine months also joined her on the fishing trip. "Fishing was a great stress-reliever. It was a way to get away from everything. I think it was awesome."