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    Posted July 8, 2013 by
    Fort Rucker, Alabama
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Salute to troops

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    'The Warrior' helps disabled Soldiers hit lake


    Mark Yoakum, outdoor recreation facilities manager, drives "The Warrior" on Lake Tholocco at Fort Rucker, Ala., with Tony Vilardo, a wounded warrior.


    By Nathan Pfau


    FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker is never shy about showing its support for Soldiers injured in the line of duty, and the installation makes sure wounded warriors aren't left out when it comes to life in the outdoors.


    Outdoor recreation has a new boat, aptly named "The Warrior," that helps meet the recreational needs of wounded warriors and physically disabled people on Fort Rucker, said Janice Erdlitz, Directorate of Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation marketing manager.


    The boat is a specially designed vessel that was purchased with funds that were raised through last year's Wounded Warrior Hunt, said Erdlitz.


    "The Warrior has been completely customized to fit the needs of a physically disabled boater to be able to operate the boat or be a passenger on the boat," she said. "Fort Rucker's Outdoor Recreation is excited to (add) the new boat to its inventory of wounded warrior recreational equipment."


    The decision to purchase the boat came from feedback provided by wounded warriors on what they felt would most improve their quality of life.


    "Outdoor recreation asked wounded warriors that attended the (Wounded Warrior Hunt last year) what type of equipment they would like to see purchased with the money raised," said John Clancy, ODR program manager. "Their input and suggestions was for a boat that can be utilized by wounded warriors."


    Reservations must be made in order to use the boat, and reservations can be only one day at a time. At the end of the reservation day, patrons may reserve the boat for the following day if it hasn't been reserved.


    Reservations are given according to priority, and priorities are listed in four categories:


    Priority 1 is for Army Wounded Warrior Program Soldiers who have been classified by the medical profession to be a wounded warrior. These Soldiers must show proof of their wounded warrior status. There is no fee for these Soldiers to use the boat, but gas must be reimbursed.


    Priority 2 is for wounded warriors with severe injuries that limit their mobility. There is no fee for these Soldiers to use the boat, but they must reimburse for gas.


    Priority 3 is for active-duty Soldiers with a physically disabled family member. Those who fall under this priority must pay for use of the boat and reimburse for gas.


    Priority 4 is for authorized patrons with a physically disabled family member or guest. These patrons must pay for use of the boat and reimburse for gas.


    Some features on the boat include: a ramp that allows a person in a wheelchair to directly roll onto the boat, specialized controls, remote control anchor, wheelchair locking system and other specialized features.


    The boat has a capacity of up to eight people (1,160 pounds), and can be used for various activities, such as fishing, and also can be utilized for different types of water sports, like tubing, said Clancy.


    "It's also perfect to use to just spend a day on the lake with the family," he added.


    All patrons wanting to utilize the boat must complete the Fort Rucker Boater Safety Course and can do so by visiting http://www.ftruckermwr.com/recreation/outdoor-recreation/boating-safety-course/, or by visiting the Fort Rucker Outdoor Recreation service center, said Clancy.


    There will also be a separate safety briefing provided to people prior to taking the boat out, added Erdlitz.


    The wounded warrior boat isn't the first big-ticket item that ODR has provided to make the lives of disabled Soldiers and family members easier.


    In the past, the organization has provided three hydraulic tree stands and a track chair with accessories that help wounded warriors hunt, said Clancy.


    "I just hope these recreational enhancements will bring the local communities closer together to support the wounded warriors and their families," he added.


    For more information, call (334) 244-4305.

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