Bayou Vista was a popular destination for a different breed of tourist this summer.

About 30 wounded veterans made the journey from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio to Bayou Vista this summer to relish the opportunity to cast a line and crack open a beer.

“For a lot of these guys it’s the first time they’ve been out of the hospital” said Bayou Vista resident Joe Mims.

“Having some normalcy to their life gets them away from all that and gives them something to look forward to.”

The veterans are patients at the Brooke Army Medical Center and many were victims of gunfire and improvised explosive devices in Afghanistan and Iraq. On average four wounded veterans came to Bayou Vista every other weekend during the summer.

Mims 55 of 1082 Redfish and his Bayou Vista neighbors thought the coastal life might bring the best out of the soldiers and their families.

“Some of them are still healing and have appointments every day for things like physical therapy skin grafting prothesis fittings and things like that” Mims said.

“They’d rather be sitting under the house relaxing rather than sitting in the hospital or barracks waiting for their next appointment.

“We want to make sure they’re surprised so we try to give them a weekend they didn’t expect.”

Volunteers from the city’s fire and police departments surprised the visitors by meeting them at the interstate and escorting them to Bayou Vista sometimes even letting the soldiers’ families sit inside the fire engines.

“Of course when you talk about entertaining a bunch of soldiers you’d better be ready to feed an army” Mims said.

Neighbors showered the soldiers with homemade goodies and meals as well as free lodging and bags of promotional items donated by area businesses. Kids also delivered cards to the soldiers Mims said.

“Soldiers are just amazed at the show of respect friendliness and patriotism that they experienced” he said. “And I’m so proud to be around them. It breaks your heart but when you spend time with them it heals you.”

Because of the severity of their injuries and treatment regimen soldiers can’t exactly schedule events too far ahead of time Mims said.

He rarely has more than four days to plan ahead but is always able to make it work thanks to the hard work of those around him.

And while the event is ostensibly focused on fishing he said what the young men relish most is drinking a beer catching a ballgame on TV and spending time with their families in a relaxing environment. Mims gives them an option of spending an afternoon at Moody Gardens.

“It’s such a treat to see (the children) interact with their dads” Mims said. “I know that I speak for everyone involved who gets to spend time with these fine young men and their extraordinary families that this is a very humbling experience and a great honor.”

He illustrated that feeling by quoting his neighbor Bob Dendy.

“Do you realize we have eight Purple Heart recipients spending an afternoon with us?” Dendy asked Mims one night at dinner.

At the end of each weekend Mims said he feels a kinship with each soldier. Many of them report back to Bayou Vista regarding their health conditions and relationship status just like they would do with their parents.

The fishing season will start again next May Mims said.

For questions about donating to this cause contact Mims at 409-771-3374.

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