Our “Healing On The Albany” event is off and running. It kicked off last Friday when the soldiers arrived in Thunder Bay – and what a reception they had.
Getting the boys to Thunder Bay was supposed to be easy. It was all set for July 11th. American Airlines gave each U.S. soldier the required round trip flights to Chicago. Ed Newby and Bob Buttgen, donated their private planes and pilot skills to get the U.S. soldiers from Chicago to Canada. Then the weather went out in Thunder Bay, and the planes could not leave Chicago. Ed’s daughter invited them over for a BBQ, they all went to bed in Chicago with full tummies, and woke up to sunny skies on Saturday.
Thank Goodness !
They arrived in Thunder Bay at noon Saturday where city officials, the media, and local military groups rolled out the red carpet. Mark Snyder, event coordinator for Project Healing Waters was given the Medallion of the City, by Councilor Linda Rydholm.
A special bagpipe welcome was performed by Cliff Niles of the Macgillivray Pipe Band of Thunder Bay. He dropped us a e-mail yesterday, “My hobby is piping and I have played for many occasions over the years, but I found it very humbling to play for these brave soldiers. The smiles on their faces during the “ceremonial piping in parade” meant just as much to me as it did to them!”
While their luggage was loaded and planes were readied for the 45-minute flight to Miminiska Lodge the boys enjoyed lunch and conducted interviews with the media. Click here to read the news report. Every soldier was impressed with the special welcome prepared by Paul Pepe of Thunder Bay Tourism, and all of the radio, TV, and newspaper reporters who stopped by for lunch and a chance to say “Welcome to Thunder Bay” and “Welcome to Canada”.
In cooperation with Project Healing Waters, soldiers from both the U.S. and Canada will be our guests all week, at Miminiska Lodge on the Albany River. Seven U.S. soldiers and two Canadians are here to enjoy the cool green boreal forest, and the lakes and streams of Northwestern Ontario. Austin Randell, our director of maintenance, has even built a new ramp so those soldiers in wheel chairs have easy access to their cabin.
You may recall that Project Healing Waters is a non profit charity, that assists soldiers who have been wounded in the battlefield, by introducing or reintroducing them to the joys of fly angling. Our guests this week have been injured in the line of duty in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Vietnam.Mark Snyder, the event coordinator for Project Healing Waters has rigged up their fly rods, and together with our First Nation Guides pointed them in the direction of the plentiful Walleye and scrappy Northern Pike on Miminiska Lake. As of this writing they are having great success despite the unusually cold and rainy weather we are experiencing. The photo shows Mark exchanging knot tying ideas with our Native Guides.
When our chef, Jean Randell saw both U.S. and Canadian soldiers at one table, she commented, “This is like Doctors Without Borders, except, it’s “Soldiers Without Borders.” …She was right. Jean saw clearly that all soldiers who keep the peace sometimes pay dearly, regardless of their uniform. Take Sam Floberg, of North Dakota USA for example. Sam is one of those who stood tall, when others may have stood back. He’s one of those who said, “I will,” when the question, “Who will protect the free world?” is asked. And he is one of our guests this week, as the borders come down and spirits go up. On Sunday Jean prepared a turkey dinner with all the fixins’. Our staff and the soldiers sat at one big family table to give thanks.
-For our freedoms.
-For the soldiers who answer the call when ever and where ever freedom is threatened.
-And for each other.
There was plenty of laughter, especially when 81 year old Helen Cheeseman presented each soldier with a Wilderness North shirt, and a good luck kiss. Bill Johnston, of Butler, PA, got both, even though it appears in the photo that Helen is strangling him. Alan Cheeseman, her son, says she does possess that ability and can use it if required …he ought to know. Bill (60) is a Vietnam vet, and the senior member of the PHW delegation. A grade school in Pittsburg, PA sponsored Bill’s trip – and he is most grateful.
The others in camp are all younger guys from recent military engagements. I’d like to introduce our two Canadian Soldiers to you on this week’s podcast. David Thompson and Matt Kozakiewicz, both from Shiloh, Manitoba were seriously injured while serving in Afghanistan. Their stories are remarkable. Listen to them here.
Despite borders and ages everybody is getting along and having a terrific time. And so are we.