Inaugural S.O.S. event attracts a large crowd
Individuals flooded the back property of the Olde Fish House in Matlacha Sunday afternoon to pay respect to U.S. service members, along with supporting the Wounded Warrior Project.
Thirty motorcycles kicked off the Save Our Servicemembers (S.O.S.) event on Father’s Day. The first seven motorcycles carried the American flag, U.S. Army flag, U.S. Marines Corps flag, U.S. Navy flag, U.S Air Force flag, Coast Guard flag and POW/MIA flag into the event, which were then taken out and placed into their respectable holders.
Jim Normandin, who organized the event, said veterans who served in the different branches of service brought the flags into the event.
Mark Barton, who organized the motorcycle ride from Publix on the corner of Pine Island Road and Veterans Parkway, said the riders included SAMSBO, a motorcycle club that originated in Matlacha.
“We love the area and support everyone,” he said. “You can count on motorcyclist for anything.”
Barton said the S.O.S. event was one of the best events out on the island.
The Pledge of Allegiance was said, followed by the singing of the national anthem.
Guns N Hoses played a tribute, among a few other songs, to the fallen service members with “Amazing Grace,” which gave individuals goose bumps while bringing tears to their eyes.
Normandin said although he was hoping for a good crowd he did not expect to see so many people at the beginning of the event. He said he witnessed people wiping their eyes, so he knows the beginning of the event hit the right place for everyone.
“Had a moment of goose bumps,” Normandin said.
The S.O.S. event was held to help raise funds for the Wounded Warrior Project, which began to assist the first wounded service members returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.
David Souders, Wounded Warrior Project alumni, spoke at the event Sunday afternoon. He served in the Marines from 1986-1992 and became an international guard in 2006.
He said he became a part of the Wounded Warrior Project on April 30 of this year.
Souders said the Wounded Warrior Project is devoted to helping the veterans who were wounded from 2001 forward. He said the project helps rehabilitate and reintegrate soldiers back into civilian life.
An avid fisherman, Souders said members from the Wounded Warrior Project invited him on fishing trips, which have been a great help for his physical and mental health. He said he can spend 10-12 hours out on the boat forgetting about all the issues at hand.
Souders was so touched, he and a few other Wounded Warrior Project members decided to begin Wounded Warrior Anglers of America, an organization that began in Cape Coral.
Their mission is “the use of fishing as a tool to help rehabilitate the mind, body, and soul while fostering the mental and physical well being of all service members who have been injured, wounded or disabled in the line of duty no matter what their era of service.”
“The project has done so much for us,” he said, adding that since they have already encountered many of the struggles the veterans are going through, they wanted to give back and help. “If we can help someone else that means a lot to.”
The event also included a speech from Jim Roach and live music until approximately 9 p.m., by musicians who donated their time. An unexpected surprise also graced the afternoon of festivities dedicated to the service members by Normandin’s son Quincy, who proposed to his girlfriend.
Quincy said he has wanted to pop the big question for a little while and thought the event would be a perfect occasion because it would mean a lot to her in front of a lot of people. That reasoning came from him not liking to get in front of a crowd to speak.
“It caught her off guard,” he said smiling.
In light of Father’s Day, Roach began his speech by sharing how his father, a World War II veteran, is his hero.
Roach, a Vietnam veteran, said their welcome home was not the best after the war and asked everyone to support our new and old veterans.
“Our veterans are the key to our freedom and liberty,” he said.
The event also attracted a family who currently has a son serving in Afghanistan and another who is in the Army Reserves.
Tim Wilson Sr. said his son, Tim, 27, is a sergeant in the Army who is on his second tour.
“He made a lot of sacrifice,” Wilson Sr. said of his son, who he is very proud of. “He has a wife and daughter waiting for him to come back.”
Wilson Jr. is expected to return back home Aug. 1.
Sunday turned out to be a very special day for Wilson Sr.
“He was able to call me at 6 this morning truly the best day of my life,” he said.
Darlene said when she talked to her son Sunday morning, they told him they were attending the S.O.S. event and he became very excited.
“He was really proud of us,” she said. “I was determined to come here today.”
Darlene said they will attend the event every year if it is held.
“it’s awesome,” she said of the event because it was for a good cause.
The S.O.S. event originally stemmed from a little get-together Normandin planned with his son Quincy.
“I’m very happy with it,” Quincy said of the event. “It started off with a little thing and became large. It’s nice to see the support.”
Quincy, an active duty reactor operator of the U.S.S. Nebraska at the Washington Naval Base Kitsap, said he is only on active duty because of the vets that served before him.
Olivia, Normandin’s daughter, was also able to attend the event. She is in the Navy Reserves in Orlando. She said although whatever her father thinks about he does, she never expected the event to be as large as it was.
Olivia said she was very proud of her father for putting on the event.
Normandin said to have his son and daughter with him on Father’s Day meant the world to him.
“It’s an awesome Father’s Day for me,” he said. “They both have provided me with an ultimate memory both in white uniforms beautiful.”