A story not about me, but again about a first class warrior. I had the honor of attending a Combat Marine Outdoors event hosted by a group of fantastic folks in the small ocean town of Bayou Vista, Texas. Combat Marine Outdoors is a non-profit organization doing some very powerful works honoring wounded warriors from the Marines, Army, Navy and Air Force.
This was a weekend of fishing and being treated royally by a group of people who go overboard to honor you. I was excited to be invited to go fishing. But early on I found out it was not about the fish, but so much more. I met awesome people who year round are giving of their time and resources to support these warriors. Additionally I immediately felt accepted by fellow warriors of a generation later.
One of the main highlights for me was at the end of the day when we would meet in Rusty's room and wind down. Rusty Hicks is co-founder and Executive Director of Combat Marine Outdoors. This was an opportunity to catch up, laugh, bitch about the VA and hear of the goals and plans of those who shared. Rusty's ability of listening and knowing when to give advice was right on.
The ladies who work with the Vista every year make a quilt to give one of the warriors by putting numbers in cup for a draw. I did not want to draw a number as I thought it was more appropriate for the other guys to be in the draw. They insisted so I decided I could not accept it if by chance I won. They drew Matt Pundyk's name so this was not an issue, everyone clapped and cheered for Matt.
The following day one of the couples wanted all of us to meet at a local restaurant as they wanted to treat us to breakfast as we left to drive back to San Antonio. Matt, myself and two other guys would be riding back in the van.
I may not get this word for word, but it will be close. This was an emotional moment for me. While we were arranging our bags and all the goodies they gave us, Matt handed me the quilt and said "I want you to have this". I was surprised by his offer, but there was no way I was going to accept it. I said," Matt you won this in the draw and the ladies made it for one of you guys". He said "I already have one that I got when I was in the hospital when I lost my leg". After thanking him, I again refused it. He then said, "When you guys came back no one did anything for you so I want you to have this". "The guy on the quilt is saluting. That is me saluting you". All I could say was, "When you give me this you are honoring every Viet Nam veteran".
I have received medals pinned on me in the battlefield by a general, but nothing, I repeat NOTHING has honored me as much as Matt Pundyk did that day. This is a First Class Warrior.
I left the fields of Vietnam the summer of 1969 and landed at The University of Texas at Austin later that summer.