A hero’s welcome: Port Mansfield to host eight combat veterans

PORT MANSFIELD — They’ll have the rare opportunity to fire at nilgai and reel in red snapper, grouper, kingfish and maybe even a marlin.

For four days, a group of eight U.S. military veterans, who also are Purple Heart recipients wounded in live combat, will hunt at the El Sauz Ranch.

Then they will also spend time deep-sea fishing and casting their lines into the Bay all as part of Trinity Oaks celebration for wounded warriors.

Trinity Oaks, founded in 2007 and based in San Antonio, is a nonprofit organization that creates hunting, fishing and outdoor focused events for veterans, youth and terminally ill or disabled people. This is their biggest event of the year.

But first, there will be a “hero celebration” for the group with the community. The eight heroes will ride in all the way to Port Mansfield from San Antonio, escorted by as many as 200 or 300 motorcycles. Their destination Sunday afternoon will be the Port Mansfield Community Center, where there will be a barbecue, which is open to the public.

“That is the kickoff to the next few days and the way to welcome them to Port Mansfield,” said Trinity Oaks executive director Brittany Hosmer.

She called it a once-in-a-lifetime trip that truly shows appreciation for what these Texas-based wounded warriors have given to America. Typically, these veterans are in rehab and there’s a financial need. They are chosen based on those factors. Hosmer called the trip a highlight of Trinity Oaks’ veterans program.

“It costs about $40,000, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime and it is how we show our appreciation,” she said.

Money raised for these types of programs comes from fundraising efforts by Trinity Oaks. There are several fundraisers throughout the year that pay for these programs. There also are grants and individual donations.

The mostly-volunteer organization means that most of what is donated and gathered individually goes straight to programs such as these with little administrative overhead.

Although Hosmer won’t attend this particular trip, she has been on them before. She admits, there’s nothing like it.

“It is amazing,” she said. “The first day, they are overwhelmed and shy and introverted and internalizing.”

But, it’s the second day they start opening up. Sitting around a campfire listening to country music apparently does that for many veterans.

“The third day is like a frat house,” she said with a laugh. “The biggest thing is it is creating a normalcy for them. For that moment in time, they just get to be one of the guys. They are not thinking about their rehab or anything else. That is sometimes the hardest thing.”

Once they become comfortable and are enjoying their time, it is difficult for them to go home, Hosmer said.

While it may be the biggest and most costly program run though Trinity Oaks, these aren’t the only types of help the organization provides.

It also has a full service commercial meat-processing and distribution facility that provides more than 9,000 pounds of healthy meat to soup kitchens, homeless shelters and orphanages in Texas and northern Mexico.

In July, Trinity Oaks processed 24,000 pounds of meat from the nilgai cull at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. It was sealed into two-pound packages and distributed around south Texas. In all, the meat was expected to make 120,000 meals.