Gainesville Getaway 2015_3

Summer Fun with Servicemen at Georgia’s Lake Lanier

Categories: Family Retreats, Highlights, Support Our Troops

We are so fortunate to have the most giving, passionate, patriotic supporters at Freedom Alliance, and David and Rita Scott are no exception. This couple makes it their mission to serve those who serve our country, and we can’t imagine doing this work without them.

Since 2012, the Scotts have invited Freedom Alliance to escort veterans to their home on beautiful Lake Lanier in Gainesville, Georgia. Twice each summer, we select a party of service members, who we want to recognize and encourage and show a good time. Because if David and Rita know anything, it’s how to entertain their guests!

At the Scotts’ lakefront residence are boats and tubes, jet skis and docks, not to mention the lake itself, which accommodates swimming, rope-swinging, and quiet fishing. In between hours of active fun, the house is set up for repose, with patios and lawn chairs and lovely prospects in every direction.

As an extra benefit, Big Fish On guide services liberally donated fishing trips for each set of veterans this year. They met us at the Scotts’ dock with their boats, captained by Mike and Ken, and gave us two splendid days of fishing on the lake.

And then there is the food… The eating is a sport in itself, as the Scotts go above and beyond to keep our veterans well fed and talking about the meals for days afterward.

A seasoned low-country boil simmers in outdoor cookers until the flavor is optimal, and overflowing platters of seafood, sausage, and corn present for consumption. Or there might be a  cookout on the grill with all sorts of prime cuts of meat that would rival the contents of a gourmet cookbook.

Participating in what we call “The Gainesville Getaway” earlier this year were six outstanding service members and all-around great guys:

Kenny, a medically retired soldier, was in a motorcycle accident several years ago. The trauma required not only a lengthy recovery but also made it necessary for Kenny to deal with some lingering issues from serving a combat deployment in Iraq.

Kenny invited Ralph, a native of Haiti, who grew up in New York City and served as a military police officer. He is rehabilitating from a spinal cord injury, damage to his shoulder, back, and knees, and a traumatic brain injury.

With over 19 years in the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant, Josh has eight combat deployments under his belt, which has led to several back surgeries. We met Josh when he was a liaison at Walter Reed Military Medical Center, seeking support for the Marines under his charge.

Ronnie, diagnosed with end-stage renal failure, was one of those Marines, receiving dialysis treatments at Walter Reed. He has recently moved to Augusta, Georgia, and he received a kidney transplant in March. We were not only happy to hear the news, but we celebrated that he was healthy enough to participate in this event.

The Scotts also invited their longtime friend and another Freedom Alliance participant, Army Medic Shon. Furthermore, they introduced us to Sam, an Army service member Rita met in town, who lost a leg and an arm while serving in Afghanistan.

Chad is a National Guardsman, who lives near the Scotts. On our invitation, he came for dinner two nights, and stayed over to take advantage of the next morning’s fishing excursion.

Two months later, the Scotts opened their home again, this time to four military couples.

Joe and Sean are two Marines who attended last year’s Gainesville Getaway, and they returned this summer with their wives, Renee and Megan. Megan is a service member herself, having performed duty as a Navy Corpsman at the Camp Lejeune base hospital in North Carolina, which is where she and Sean live.

Joe and Renee flew in from Pennsylvania to meet the other couples, and the women couldn’t wait to experience what their husbands had been talking about all year.

Shannon and Amanda arrived from Houston. Shannon is also a Corpsman, although medically retired, who served two tours in Iraq. He plays lead guitar and sings for a band called Vetted, which maintains a relentless touring schedule to bases and military hospitals across the United States.

“T.” drove down from Virginia with his wife, Johanna, and their infant daughter EssieMae, who was born in January. In the Marine Corps, T. was part of the initial invasion into Iraq, and then he deployed again to Fallujah in 2004—during the same time Shannon was there.

He reenlisted and served as Presidential Support for three years, and didn’t leave the military until 2010, continuing to deploy afterward to Afghanistan as a contractor.

For this couples’ retreat, we received a houseboat donation from Paradise Rental Boats, which all the couples greatly enjoyed. While the men angled with Big Fish On—landing 30-some striped bass and other catches—the ladies were treated to manicures and pedicures.

We loved this quote from Renee: “Sometimes you just need a break from it all … on a houseboat! Kindred spirits are few in this life … makes my heart smile when they cross my path. What a wonderful weekend to reconnect with my love and meet new forever friends!”

At the end of both trips, the participants said that, rather than attending a special event, they felt like they had been visiting family.

Freedom Alliance really does feel like a family. We have the friendliest, most generous donors and we get to know and serve the best people in the world—the men and women of the Armed Forces.

Family doesn’t get any better than that!

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