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Wounded Warriors Bass Tournament to return

BY LAUREN P. DUNCAN lduncan@paducahsun.com

The combined resources of a local bass club, a Fort Campbell-based recreation program, and the natural offerings of Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley will offer wounded soldiers a chance to heal outdoors.

Steve Alvarado, a retired Army master sergeant and River City Bass Club president, knows what it's like to return home from action with few recreational opportunities.

Alvarado was wounded in Vietnam. In addition to the injury itself, he can remember being bored, waiting to return to active life outside the Texas medical unit where he received care. He particularly remembers the weekends being eventless.

"When I was sitting in that footlocker, I recall thinking: I've got nothing to do," he said.

That's one reason why Alvarado admires the mission of Healing Outside of a Hospital, or HOOAH, which is an outdoor recreation program for wounded soldiers across the country, formed and based out of Fort Campbell. Wounded soldiers can take part in a number of activities, including swimming, boating, camping and hunting.

In 2009, Alvarado was contacted about the River City Bass Club holding an event for HOOAH. That summer, the club hosted its first tournament in conjunction with HOOAH, which is geared toward those with physical injuries and soldiers who were wounded in conflict.

On July 13, the club will hold the sixth annual tournament at Kentucky Lake and Lake Barkley. The previous night, the 20 participating soldiers will stay at the Super 8 motel in Calvert City.

Country Chevrolet of Benton is matching the costs with Willow Pond Catfish Restaurant in Calvert City to provide a meal the night before the tournament. Then, at 6 a.m. that Sunday, the fishing will begin.

Both the HOOAH program and the bass tournament is designed to offer more than just a pastime. Alvarado said when some of the soldiers get on the boat, they can just "get lost" in the lake, scenery and fishing.

For some soldiers, Alvarado said, it's hard to return to a sport such as hunting after serving in active duty. Activities such as the tournament help them to readjust to activities soldiers were accustomed to before service.

"It's more of a mental-type conditioning," he said.

Trophies for first, second and third place catches, as well as an award for the smallest legal bass, will be awarded. The public can observe the weigh-in at noon at Kentucky Dam Marina.

"The public is invited to welcome them, and give them a pat on the back ... that's what it's all about," Alvarado said.

The Patriot Riders of Mayfield will then escort the boats from the marina to a banquet at 1 p.m. at Calvary Baptist Church in Gilbertsville, where Backwoods BBQ will host a dinner for the guests and the public. In previous years, about 150 people have attended.

The River City Bass Club has about 40 members who help with the event. Many members bring their own boats and host the soldiers, each of whom is taken out on one of the 20 boats.

The club's main function is conservation, but as the group has become involved with programs such as HOOAH over the past few years, it's also become a charitable organization, Alvarado said.

"The main thing is taking care of the soldiers," he said. 

Contact Lauren Duncan, Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8692 or follow @laurenpduncan on Twitter.

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