A boat carrying Wounded Warriors, their families and volunteers from the 559th Flying Training Squadron, Randolph Air Force base, Texas, heads for a barbeque lunch break during Operation Float a Soldier. OFAS provides Wounded Warriors and their family members with a relaxing day of water activities and a barbeque lunch at Canyon Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo/Steve Thurow)
Maj. Clint Schulz, 559th Flying Training Squadron, carries equipment and supplies off a boat ferrying volunteers Aug. 21. The volunteers spent their Saturday supporting Operation Float a Soldier, which provides Wounded Warriors and their family members a relaxing day of water activities and a barbeque lunch at Canyon Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo/Steve Thurow)
Fishing equipment sits on the dock at Canyon Lake Marina waiting to be loaded by members of the 559th Flying Training Squadron. The group volunteered Aug. 21 to setup and tear down for Operation Float a Soldier, which provides Wounded Warriors and their family members with a relaxing day of water activities and a barbeque lunch at Canyon Lake. (U.S. Air Force photo/Steve Thurow)
RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas —
Wounded Warriors and their families now have opportunities throughout the summer to take it easy at Canyon Lake thanks to the efforts of a nonprofit organization and volunteers like Randolph's 559th Flying Training Squadron's Fighting Billygoats.
Operation Float a Soldier is the brainchild of Wes Garnett and Seth Warnick, two Texas natives who grew up around the military. The two founders saw a need for rehabilitating servicemembers to escape from the hustle and bustle of hospital life.
"OFAS is very relaxing; this is what Soldiers need, to come out here and have fun," said Army Spc. Manuel Santiago, who recently attended his fourth OFAS event.
Every other Saturday, groups volunteer their time and resources so Wounded Warriors and their family members can enjoy the day-long picnic. Wounded Warriors at BAMC can sign up for the event at Ft. Sam Houston's Warrior and Family Support Center. The Army provides shuttle bus transportation for the Wounded Warriors and their families to and from the lake.
Once they arrive at Canyon Lake, participants can go boating, ride personal watercraft or try their hand at wakeboarding. For children or those who want something a little more relaxed, OFAS volunteers pack an arsenal of water toys. Children can play with water guns, pass footballs, float in one of many inflatable rafts or even catch some air on a water trampoline. Lunch is provided aboard the Canyon Lake Marina Yacht, which is donated by Don King, the marina manager.
To make these weekends a success takes coordination and a desire to help. Members of the 559th FTS pitched in Saturday to help set up, tear down, and pitch tents, in addition to carrying food and beverages. The team proudly assisted their brothers and sisters in arms.
"The event is truly American," said retired Chief Master Sgt. Bob Laymon, one of the organization's many cheerleaders. "Several of the Wounded Warriors are young enlisted; in no other country would you find commissioned officers donating their weekend time and labor to help out wounded enlisted servicemembers."
It isn't only fellow military members who aid the Wounded Warriors; several civic leaders and community members also give to the event. One Canyon Lake couple, Bill and Myrna George, contribute by allowing the group to set up a beach-style hangout for the Wounded Warriors on their lakefront property.
One spouse said OFAS is amazing as she spent her Saturday catching up on school work while sitting lakeside.
Mr. Warnick said these relaxing retreats will continue until the Texas heat wears off. To find out more, or volunteer for OFAS, contact Wes Garnett at 865-5646 or Seth Warnick at 830-885-6805, or visit the OFAS Web site at www.floatasoldier.org.