SWLA Veteran heads to Florida on free vacation

SWLA Veteran heads to Florida on free vacation

ROSEPINE, LA - Saturday morning, a group of veterans from throughout the southern United States will head to Florida for a week-long free vacation. One of those very lucky travelers is Sergeant Gary Powell of Rosepine, who had his bags packed longed before he got the invitation.

Gary Powell served 30 years in the military, joining at the age of 19, and getting injured twice on the job but not reporting it so he could continue to fight for his country.

"A sniper shot at me," said Powell, "One of the bullets went right passed my head."

During his last deployment, there was a moment when he couldn't remember what that fight was all about.

"I said to myself, when I get back home, I want to see what I was fighting for," said Powell.

With the help of Wounded War Heroes, Powell has been able to do exactly that. From rounding up rabbits, to bear hunting expeditions, to noodling for catfish, Powell has joined with other veterans to see the world they fought for.

His adventures continued a few years ago when condo owners in Perdido Key, Florida, decided to open their homes to veterans.

"Somebody had dropped out that first time," said Powell about his first time at Eden Condominiums.

Another veteran couldn't go on the trip, so Powell found himself on the beach. He went again the next year, when the lucky veteran won the free trip at a fishing rodeo.

From spa days to sailing trips and jet ski rides, the trip has it all.

"Every evening there's a restaurant or business that would feed us," said Powell.

The vacation in Perdido Key is a "thank you" to all the veterans who've served.

Powell had no plans to go again this year, but his military training has taught him well.

"You got to have a bag packed, ready to go, with all your essentials inside it," said Powell.

It came in handy when he got a call Thursday afternoon. Another room opened up on the beach, and guess who gets to go. Powell, his wife and their great granddaughter will have their toes back in the sand next week.

"When you get around other veterans, you exhale, you relax."

This is the third year for the free veterans vacation. It all started when one condo owner wanted to give a soldier a free trip, and now it's grown to include dozens of veterans families each year.