Pine Island welcomes five special visitors
By MARIANNE PATON
Last week, Pine Island was host to many visitors, but five in particular instantly drew the interest and attention of year-round residents. Before being deployed to Kuwait later this summer, PFC Jason Wallace, PFC Matthew Cavinder, PFC Justin Wallace, PFC T.J. Montgomery and PFC Ryan Rasnick, all with Unit 585 Military Police Company, decided to spend their last vacation together in the states on Pine Island.
“We have always wanted to come to Florida and decided that Pine Island would be our destination,” said Wallace. “While visiting the island, we have also gone to Cape Coral, Fort Myers Beach, for a boat ride and visited a lot of the clubs on the island.”
Jason Wallace, 20, hails from Huntsville, Ohio, and said he joined the military for the experience and to save money for school. After his duty in the military is completed, he plans to pursue a career in criminal justice. This was his first visit to Florida and enjoyed his one-week stay.
“The hospitality shown to us by the island people was above and beyond any thing I’ve ever seen,” said Wallace. “I am extremely grateful for all of the kindness they have shared with us.”
Cavinder, 19, is from Indian Lake, Ohio, and said he joined the military for the valuable experience and aspires to obtain a higher government-affiliated law enforcement job in the future. According to Cavinder, this is his second visit to Pine Island and after his first trip, he couldn’t wait to come back.
“All of the people here were very welcoming and welcomed us with open arms,” Cavinder said. “Pine Island has the nicest people in the world. I have been to more than 15 states, but haven’t been any place like this.”
Justin Wallace, 20, is the brother of Jason and said that he joined the military to do his duty for his country. He also hails from Huntsville, Ohio, and found Pine Island to be a pleasant change.
“Everybody here was very warm and took us under their wings,” he said. “We met a lot of new people and I’m sure I will be back here when I come home from the middle east.”
Montgomery, 20, also is from the state of Ohio and said that originally he joined the military to earn money for college, but now plans to pursue a career in law enforcement as well. His desire is to finish college and try to get a position with the U.S. Marshall’s office or serve as an active duty officer. He said he now views Pine Island like a second home.
“When you leave home and then come back again is like the vibe I get from the people here on the island,” said Montgomery. “Pine Island just feels like a second home to me now.”
Rasnick, 20, resides in Monroeville, Ohio, and said he enjoys the physical labor and camaraderie the military has to offer. When returning from his duties, Rasnick plans to go to college to work toward becoming a football coach or a trainer. He also plans to start a family after the military. As for the island, he said he appreciates the respect islanders expressed with regard to their country.
“Everyone we met was very patriotic and supported us all,” Rasnick said. “Also, they all seemed like long lost aunts and uncles and made us all feel like we were members of their families.”
Acting as hostess to the five soldiers for the week was Tina Reese, co-owner of the Ragged Ass Saloon in St. James City. Among the visiting soldiers was a nephew of Reese.
“When Matthew called me and said he would like to come and visit with a couple of his friends, I was very excited. Matthew is my brother’s only son and is very special to me, so I said, ‘Of course, come on down.’ What I didn’t realize however was there would be five of them. For a week my front room looked like tent city and we didn’t get much sleep, but it was worth every minute to have them here,” said Reese. “All of the boys are welcome back here any time. It was a pleasure to have them and they are now Pine Island’s adopted home town heroes, Reese said.”
The soldiers have headed north for further training before being shipped out for duty overseas.
“I have already received an e-mail from T.J. thanking me and the island again. He said they all couldn’t wait to come back to the island.”
From Pine Island, Wallace, Cavinder, Wallace, Montgomery and Rasnick have gone for further training in Fort Dix, N.J., for 50 days and then will be deployed to Kuwait for one year of service.