The Warrior Bonfire Project went to Tampa for one of our biggest adventures yet! We keep our numbers small for a reason but we sometimes go all out on the number of events.
Day 1 found us flying through aviation history at a private tour of Fantasy of Flight, home of the world's largest private collection of aircraft. Over 100 birds full of military and leisure aircraft presented an opportunity for these guys to reminisce of past experiences. That afternoon we found ourselves aboard THE pirate ship that sits famously inside Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. This group proves you are never too old play like pirate! We had an up close look at the history of the stadium, uniforms and helmets, all good stuff to prepare us for the opening game! Later that evening we dined at the home of The Airboss, Wayne Boggs and his wife Carolyn, entertained with incredible stories surrounded by a museum like atmosphere and a surprise guest, WWE wrestler turned actor, Dave Batista!
Day 2 we took to the sea for early morning fishing and of course a competition for the days catch, hosted by the captains of Harborage Marina in St. Petersburg. After a filling lunch at the docks we then turned to some speedy transportation with a segway tour of Tampa's channel side. Set up with Magic Carpet Glide, we were off and showed Tampa tourist that we were not down and out! These Purple Hearts were pumpin' as made our way by the bay and through the beautiful parks of Tampa. With only one minor wipe out and a couple of exit wobbles, we certainly drew lots of attention zippin' through the crowds. Our guys had a blast! Finally we ended the night with a juicy steak and all the fixens' provided by the Original Outback Steakhouse - Henderson, staff and service was fantastic!
Day 3 we let the crew sleep in to prepare for the biggest day of all...Opening Game Day!! Hosted by the fine folks of Raymond James, Brian Lampsa, Jeff Cornell, and Adam Barncard, we started the events off right at the official Pre-Game Tailgate Party, where we stuffed ourselves at the all you can eat buffet. Our Purple Hearts were touched when they received a roar of cheers and applause at a shout out by the band, which super energized them to cheer on the Bucs. Seated just under the pirate ship, we saw it all, touchdowns, cannon blasts, flyovers and the Panther in the band (Google it)! At the end of the game we headed on over for our dinner by the bonfire. Our most important and effective event of all. It is here, that it all comes together. The camaraderie and support forged here is like no other these guys typically get to experience. It is here that they find the brotherhood so many of them miss from their active duty in combat. No matter the branch, rank, or war, the brotherhood is automatic, genuine and unique. This is where the life long healing must occur and this is what they need.
Day 4 we wrapped up our weekend with a tour and briefing at MacDill Airforce Base. Once again, they are reminded of their choice to serve in the military to protect this great nation and see it's purpose. These men are proud of their accomplishments and sacrifices and would not trade it for anything.
The magnitude of this event would not have been possible without the tremendous support throughout the Tampa area. Crowne Plaza Tampa Westshore gave us a very comfortable place to rest our weary heads, Parks Ford of Wesley Chapel along with Hertz and Support The Troops, Inc. set us up with a great van, Black Dagger Military Hunt Club's Dave Winters orchestrated fishing and the bonfire dinner, Copenhagen provided meals through gift cards, and the crew at Vetcor Water Mitigation Services was instrumental in introducing us to all these connections. This was an amazing endeavor and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Click here to see photos from this trip.