In addition to the second annual Veteran’s Day parade on Saturday, Gulfport hosted its first annual VETSports Beach Volleyball Benefit. Wounded Warriors of VETSports played against Gulfport police officers and firemen. The public safety officers started strong but lost the game in the final set.
Veterans from across the country flew in for the weekend-long festivities.
“I measure how it went by what the vets had to say about it, and they said it was just an unforgettable experience,” Councilman Dan Liedtke said. Councilman Liedtke and his wife Michelle organized the volleyball benefit. “They just had an incredible time, and they’ve already committed to next year.”
He said, too, that the opportunity for the vets to get together and talk about shared war experiences also factored in to the weekend.
“While they’re so proud of everything they’ve done and the opportunity to serve, it’s a great opportunity for them to get together and talk about some of the things that have caused pain in their lives,” he added. “The thing that hurts them the most, it’s not their injury, it’s not everything they’ve seen over there, it’s that they can’t stay in the Army. They never talked about whether the war was a good war or a bad war; they just wanted to take their orders and serve their country.”
Although Councilman Liedtke didn’t serve in the military, but a colleague told him about VETSports. He contacted them and asked if they would consider expanding their sports to include volleyball (Liedtke and his wife Michelle are active in a local league, Tampa Bay Club Sports).
“VETSports will return to Gulfport for the annual volleyball benefit in 2013,” Michelle Liedtke said. Eighty percent of the proceeds will go toward VETSports; twenty percent of this year’s proceeds will go for Jake Taylor’s college fund. His father died in Baghdad when an IED exploded under his Humvee in 2006; Jake was four months old.
“Dan and I did not have the opportunity to ever meet Major David G. Taylor Jr., yet the sacrifice this hero paid for his country will continue to touch our lives forever. Major David Taylor’s family, VETSports and Gulfport’s Finest are truly the ones that made this event special,” Mrs. Liedtke said.
“Those soldiers know what true friendship is. I was honored to meet each and every one of them,” she said, adding "This weekend was so amazing, it is just too difficult to put into words. Not only do we thank you heroes for your sacrifice, but for all the good you are continuing to do for our country, your determination for positive change and helping all returning soldiers."