Veterans enjoy weekend of fun, support and sharing of stories

By Dave Kern, Columbian assistant metro editor

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On the Web:

Home With Heroes:

homewithheroes.com

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Here are the key players in putting on Hunting with Heroes: Pheasants Forever; Alpha Ecological; The McNett Corporation, Holland Partners; The Community Military Appreciation Committee, Blaze Outdoor Adventures, Ashmead College; Goldstar Families of Clark County; Klickitat Canyon Market; Camas Meadows Golf Course; singer Darryl Worley; the bands Lincoln’s Beard and Livin’ Free.

Also working on the Stoyanoff home were representatives of Home Depot; Alpha Ecological; GRO Outdoor Living; and Titan Painting.

CAMAS — Army veteran Monique Martin said Sunday, at the conclusion of a hunting and fishing weekend for vets sponsored by several groups and businesses, that she'd "never felt so honored."

"It was the best experience I've ever had," Martin said of the three days sponsored by the groups Hunting with Heroes and Home with Heroes, along with a slew of businesses.

"I bagged three pheasants," Martin, 46, of Vancouver, said enthusiastically. "I caught a 10-pound salmon. I had never played poker before and I finished seventh in the tournament."

Those outdoor Klickitat County experiences were arranged by Blaze Outdoor Adventures and Pheasants Forever.

Martin, who retired in February after 26 years in the military and now is a veterans representative at WorkSource, was asked by Vancouver's Jerry Keen, 67, if she wanted to be among 35 veterans treated to a fabulous weekend. This was the third year for the event that Keen helped found.

Keen, a Navy veteran who served from 1966 until 1992, said some vets have told him, "I don't deserve this." At least one veteran came from Idaho and one from Connecticut.

The weekend included massages, ceremonies and two concerts, Sunday's at Camas Meadows Golf Course. And there were vet-to-vet talks about feelings and experiences.

Army vet Clifton Taylor Jr., 54, of Vancouver said he, along with most, became emotional at least once during the weekend.

"Practically the whole town of Klickitat lined up when we were coming in and the Girl Scouts presented the colors. It brought a tear to my eye," said Taylor, who was injured by an improvised explosive device in 2008. He's had several operations on his leg and walks with the help of a cane or walker.

That did not prevent him from fishing and hunting pheasants along with brothers and sisters in arms.

Jake Carse with Alpha Ecological said the weekend cost about $55,000 to put on, not counting in-kind contributions. He is chairman of Home with Heroes.

"I'm wearing sunglasses because I was crying today," Carse said. "I'm overjoyed by the support of our community."

Vancouver's Richard Alvarez and Ron Frisbie, both 65 and Vietnam veterans, were at Camas Meadows in uniform representing the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7824.

"You have to support organizations like this so (vets) don't have to feel how we felt when we came home from Vietnam: lonely and criminals," Frisbie said. He said he spent seven years in and out of hospitals for injuries suffered by a mortar blast when he was near Mo Duc, Vietnam, guarding a bridge on Highway 1.

Alvarez said of returning vets, "They're not alone; they have brothers and sisters who will help them out through the hard times."

The weekend turned out to be doubly enriching for Marine Dmitri Stoyanoff, 32, who served two stints in Iraq.

Keeping it a secret, Home with Heroes remodeled his house during the three-day weekend. Materials cost about $15,000 and there were lots of volunteers, Carse said.

"I'm overwhelmed. I feel like I kinda need to give back," Stoyanoff said. He works now as a shipping manager, and he and wife Michelle are expecting their first child, a girl, on Nov. 1.

He said the crew sealed and painted the couple's Rose Village house, did new landscaping, remodeled the kitchen, living room and bathroom, brought in furniture, replaced the water heater and updated the home's electrical system.

As for the weekend, Stoyanoff said, "Oh, man, it was great. I got my first buck. First time hunting."

Of the groups and organizations that put on the weekend, Stoyanoff said, "They love and they really want to honor veterans."