By PFC David ChoiJuly 17, 2007
Palm Island, Fla. (Army News Service, July 18, 2007) - Just off the southwest coast of Florida, big things are happening on the private, secluded beach of Palm Island.
Aca,!A"Beach Homes for the Brave,Aca,!A? a new program for military veterans and those wounded while serving in support of operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom kicked off its inaugural event last weekend. This program provides the war veterans with a complimentary weekend getaway to Palm Island.
David and Holly Haynes, who own and operate Tarpon Realty Co. in Placida, Fla., decided to start the program to provide wounded service members with the opportunity to enjoy a stay on Palm Island.
Aca,!A"We wanted to personally offer something and say Aca,!Eoethank you,Aca,!a,,cAca,!A? said Mr. Haynes.
The program includes free ferry transportation to the island, lodging in a fully furnished beachfront home, meals at the Palm Island ResortAca,!a,,cs Rum Bay Restaurant, complimentary golf carts and other resort-like privileges on the island.
After some deliberation, the couple decided to use their background as a means to show their gratitude to the wounded service members.
E-mailing dozens of beach home owners, the Haynes asked if they would like to offer their beachfront homes to the service members and their families.
Aca,!A"The responses were overwhelming,Aca,!A? said Mr. Haynes. Aca,!A"About 50 owners donated their homes.Aca,!A?
Not only did homeowners express interest, but other local businesses jumped at the chance to participate in the program.
Aca,!A"They were all thrilled to participate and donate these services,Aca,!A? said Ms. Haynes with a smile.
With the donations pouring in, the Haynes contacted Director of Army Public Affairs-Southeast, Army Sgt. Maj. Steve Valley. Aca,!A"This program was all about civilians wanting to do something for the war veterans,Aca,!A? Sgt. Maj. Valley said. Aca,!A"Once everyone understood the full program, it was approved in a matter of days.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"This is strictly a recognition program for the service members that have served in Iraq and Afghanistan,Aca,!A? Sgt. Maj. Valley continued. Aca,!A"WeAca,!a,,cre just at the beginning, but this program has nowhere to go but up.Aca,!A?
For service members who endured stressful conditions in combat zones, this ideal location provides the much needed opportunity to unwind with their friends and families.
Army Staff Sgt. Lee Jones, a wounded veteran being treated at the James A. Haley VeteranAca,!a,,cs Administration Medical Center in Tampa, Fla., was the first service member selected for the service-wide program. Aca,!A"I brought my family and friends with me for this vacation. ItAca,!a,,cs just been awesome and it really means a lot to me,Aca,!A? said Staff Sgt. Jones.
Lt. Col. Michael Kiser, who helped approve the program, said: Aca,!A"This is a great program that I really wanted to get involved in.Aca,!A?
Aca,!A"We plan on expanding this program out to different areas,Aca,!A? said Lt. Col. Kiser. Aca,!A"This is a story about great Americans, service members and civilians alike, showing their appreciation, love and concern for the war veterans.Aca,!A?
(Pfc. David S. Choi writes for US CENTCOM Public Affairs)