Warriors weekend

Veterans Charles Armstead and Jason Meadows are pictured on Meadows’s boat, where they participated in the Purple Heart Challenge. (Mike Hessong/Contributed photo).

Purple Heart Challenge event part of Warriors Weekend

For the past 17 years, Warriors Weekend has been helping Purple Heart recipient veterans find solace and relax by hosting the Purple Heart Challenge fishing trip.

The all-expenses-paid expedition sees veterans from across the nation gather in Port O’Connor for food and a day out on the bay.

Warriors Weekend, a non-profit dedicated to the support of veterans, is well known throughout the Golden Crescent due to its May event, in which hundreds of veterans arrive at Port O’Connor.

This past week also saw the charity organization host a more focused version of its typical event. The Purple Heart Challenge was entirely dedicated to soldiers who received a Purple Heart medal in recognition of their service. The medal is only given to those who suffer wounds or die in the line of service. Ron Kocian, President of Warriors Weekend, was one of the organizers who helped put the challenge together.

“In May, we’ll get 400 to 500 veterans down here, and we take them fishing out of Port O’Connor. We utilize the hotels of Port Lavaca quite a bit,” Kocian said. “The guys and gals that are down here are all Purple Heart recipients. There are about 50 to 60 of them that went out there in this cold. They wanted to go fishing, so we brought them out.”

Raising money throughout the year, Warriors Weekend strives to give veterans an entirely free and enjoyable experience. Everything from transportation, food, lodging and even guides from the boat captains is provided free of charge to those veterans in attendance.

“The furthest veteran flew in from the Seattle area. We fly them in. We pay for lodging. We pay for everything,” Kocian said. “We don’t let them pay for anything, and we’ve been doing it for over 16 years.”

Starting on Veteran’s Day, the recipients are brought in by either flight or car and participate in the Victoria Veteran’s Day parade before being brought to Calhoun County.

The next day, they hit the bay and participate in a fishing competition, where they can bond with their fellow veterans over a long day of fishing and possibly even win up to $300.

“I believe we are the biggest of our kind when we do our May event here in Calhoun County,” Kocian said. “We have great donors and great volunteers. One of our biggest is the local Kubota tractor dealer. They’re our guiding light when it comes to donations.”

As part of its ongoing efforts to cater to and provide for veterans, Warriors Weekend relies on its staff of volunteers and donors to help continue its operations.

The Purple Heart Challenge, in particular, was successful, and with the high profile of the event and continued support of the local community, they are looking forward to another successful event next May.